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Something More

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“Where’s the fashion closet when you need it?” 

“At Scarlet?” Sutton glances at Kat in the bathroom mirror. “Never mind, I’m sure that was rhetorical.” 

Kat leans against the counter, just shy of mopey. She’d feel a little better surrounded by designer shoes right now. 

“Ooh, don’t you wish we had a button that, like, opens a portal to the fashion closet anywhere we go?” 

“Careful, Jane, your sci-fi boner is showing.”  To Kat, Sutton says, “Come on, it’s not that bad.”

“I know. I just want everybody to get along.” 

Going out to dinner seemed like a good option, a safe one with Jane and Sutton there too. There’s been conversation between Adena and Tia, politeness, and it’s all just fine. It could also be better. 

Sutton finishes re-touching her makeup, asks “Do you know how many catfights I’ve had to manage at photoshoots? This is nothing like that. It’s practically a spa day.”

“Give it time.” Jane thinks maybe it’s an only child thing.

 “Yeah.” 

The agreement is kind of lackluster, but deep down Kat knows it’s true to a certain extent. Let Tia adjust to having a very important person back in Kat’s life in a real and present way; Adena to learn to navigate a redefined role, in light of their past. And Kat’s just trying not to mess it all up. She can’t shake this feeling, though, that she’s going to hurt someone, that one way or another someone will be mad at her.

Jane fluffs her hair, and all three girls do quick checks on their appearance. Kat can actually see when Jane’s eyes brighten with an idea. 

“Guys, this is perfect. They’re out there and we’re in here.” 

Her two friends share a confused look. Sutton says, “Thank you, captain obvious.” 

“Are you drunk already?” 

“No. Think about it. Adena and Tia are still at the table...together... alone .” She nods her head, smiling quite deviously, Kat has to say, as she and Sutton start catching on. 

“You want us to spy.” 

“Yes.” She’s already grabbing their hands, dragging them toward the door. “I bet we can get a good view without either of them noticing.” 

They peep around a partial wall dividing the restaurant’s dining room, ignorant of the curious looks from some nearby eaters. Stacked on top of each other - Jane on the bottom then Sutton then Kat - they actually do get a good look at their other two tablemates. And it’s...promising. Kat’s heart does a happy little flip seeing them chatting. Tia looks comfortable, hands moving to punctuate her words, and Adena’s propped her chin in her hand as she leans on the table, listening then responding. They look like they could be friends. 

Shit, maybe Kat’s been the one making things more awkward with her worrying and trying to do this on her own timeline. 

Sutton makes some noises that Kat can’t exactly decipher then chuckles. That second part, Kat can read. She knows when Sutton’s up to something. She thumps her in the back, basically telling her to spill it. 

“This triangle just got very interesting.” 

“It’s not a triangle,” Jane and Kat answer in unison. Jane says, “Sorry, reflex.” 

Kat’s almost afraid to ask...but yeah, she’s going to anyway. “What are you talking about?” 

They can hear the grin in Sutton’s voice when she starts talking. “You know those catfights I mentioned? And if we go way, way back, I’ve seen a few bar fights in my day, too, so add those. You know what most of them are about?”

“Not re--”

“Sex. It’s sex .” 

She can’t tell what Jane’s thinking down there, but Kat’s face is flaming hot right now and she can’t quite form a verbal response. 

“The signs are there, babe, I’m telling you.” Unhappy with the non-reaction to her revelation, Sutton declares, “You mark my words, our little Kat’s gonna get so much cream--”

“Eww.” 

“--I can’t even with you.” Of course her friend would think this could be fixed like something out of her erotic novels.

Sutton stands up straight, looks at them both, smug as hell. “Mark. My. Words.”

 

Adena and Kat step out into the night air together after dinner. Kat’s not sure what the other three are doing, but she takes advantage of the private moment. 

“Thank you for coming.” 

“I enjoyed it. Thank you for inviting me.” Adena’s smile begins to fade noticing the doubt in Kat’s face. She steps closer to Kat, locking eyes with her. “I love spending time with you, Kat, no matter what.” 

Kat can hear when Tia, Sutton, and Jane finally come out of the restaurant, but she and Adena are in their own little bubble. Adena’s arms tighten around her shoulders. 

“I told you I wouldn’t pull away.” 

Soft words for Kat’s ears only. And not for the first time since the artist has come back, Kat feels a part of herself that was once broken now mended. Kat squeezes Adena too before they part. She doesn’t miss the way Adena fixates on her lips for a moment before glancing away. Kat watches the cars go by, tries not to hear Sutton’s ridiculous commentary. 

Besides, Adena’s starting to date again. And Kat is totally cool with that if it’s what she wants. Adena should definitely do that. Sutton has it all wrong. 

They’re going separate ways, so Adena says her goodbyes to them all. She’s affectionate by nature and familiar enough with Kat’s friends that they happily share a hug with her. Tia’s caught off guard, but after a clumsy moment of hesitation from both of them, she and Adena share a little laugh and embrace. There’s more that Kat can’t hear because she can literally feel eyes on her and it’s distracting. 

Kat shifts her attention, and sure enough, Sutton’s looking directly at her with an eyebrow arched. She doesn’t have to say more.

 

 

1

Tia hovers over the send button, proofreading her email then deciding to CC her colleague to make sure everyone’s on the same page. They’re giving the community center and garden a facelift, and Tia needs to make sure they have all the necessary supplies and have everything documented. Satisfied, she sends the message to the center’s director and hears her phone’s whoosh of confirmation. 

She kicks her feet up behind her, laying on her stomach across the couch. She’s looking at some news alerts when Kat comes back into the room. Tia feels the furniture dip as her girlfriend climbs over the end behind her and fully lays out on top of her. Why? Because she’s Kat, and it’s the kind of playful stuff she does. Tia’s been charmed by it since day one. 

But right now she’s also smushed. Tia grunts, “You’re so freakin’ big.” 

Oops. Two, one...

“That’s what she said.” 

“Really?” Kat can’t see her actually smiling a little, but she probably knows anyway.

“Baby, you said it.”

Kissing the back of her neck and shoulder, Kat just laughs. She adjusts, fitting herself between Tia and the cushions. Her skin is still dewy and warm from the shower, smelling of citrus and something herbal, her braids tied up with a paisley scarf. The next thirty seconds are silent and comfortable, Kat content to look on as Tia works. 

She asks, “Jane and Sutton are still coming this weekend, right?” just as Kat starts to climb across her and walks to the kitchen. 

“Yep.” 

As Tia became more involved in Kat’s world, a bigger part of her personal life, she saw firsthand just how important those two women are to Kat and vice versa. She’s really happy they’re willing to spend a Saturday getting dirty. She and Kat have kind of been following the beat of a different drum since Chicago, and even though Kat sees them every day, it’s been a while for Tia and she’s missed it. They aren’t like most of her own friends - White and living in more rarefied air, for starters - and yet they’re so much like them. Dominique, her cousin and probably best friend, would fit right in, for sure. Tia can laugh and joke around just as easily, gossip without it turning mean-spirited, and they can switch to serious things, too, when it matters. 

Chicago. Wow. She couldn’t have imagined how amazing that short trip would be. They’re in love! It feels so damn good to say that! But Tia can’t think about her getaway with Kat and not also think about part of the catalyst that led them there - her relationship with Adena. She’d surprised herself with her reaction to the other woman, how outwardly she was fairly calm and accepting of Kat’s attraction to Adena while internally her confidence was shaken. Focusing on what she can’t be - not right now, anyway. She found the reminder in Kat’s eyes, though. Kat looked at her not like she was Adena, but as her own whole person, special for being who she is. Tia feels so good these days, carries so much hope for their future together. She’s not letting  go of that. 

So she’ll be supportive of Kat’s feelings, understanding in the same way Kat has been through Tia’s slow coming out, and that means spending time with Adena too. Tia often gets the impression that there’s a lot going on under the surface with Adena, and it makes her hard to read. It’s uncomfortable sometimes, yes, but she truly does like her. Tia hadn’t been lying about that. And honestly, the discomfort has been gradually fading.

“Do you think Adena might like to come?” 

“I don’t know, maybe. I can ask her.” 

Tia nods, looking back at her phone. “Do that. It would be nice for an event at a community center to actually look like the community.” No, Adena doesn’t actually live in the burrough but she certainly spends enough time there. She can be an honorary member as far as Tia’s concerned. She’ll fit right in. 

“Is that--is that the only reason,” Kat stutters, “optics?” 

She turns her attention to Kat again, picks up on her sudden wariness. 

“Well, that and it seems like something she might be into. Most of her activism is pretty global, from what I’ve seen, but if she’s living here full-time now I would think she’d like to get involved…”

Kat shakes off whatever she’s thinking, says, “No, you’re right. I’ll ask.” 

She types the text right then, and it gives Tia some time to think about how to say this next part. Sitting upright, Tia waits for Kat to look at her. “Hey, I’m all right spending time with her. It’s kind of nice talking to her. But you know we aren’t going to be as close and you and her, right? That’s probably not--”

“Yeah, I know. This is all just so new to me, and I--” She stops and rolls her eyes. “I just need to chillax, I know.” Her phone vibrates, and she smiles at it. “And I’ll try to do it by Saturday because Adena wants to come.” 

“Cool. Make sure she brings her camera, we need a photographer.” 

Kat shakes her head, not fooled at all. “Don’t even.” 

She crosses the floor and uses those long legs of hers to climb over the back of the couch, pushing Tia down amid the sound of belly deep laughter. 

 

“...okay and we’re here to actually work, but please post, post, post on your social media and be sure to tag the center. There aren’t any news crews here. We know how that it is,” she says with a wry smile, “so it’s up to us to spread the word.” 

It’s always harder to get eyeballs on them if there isn’t some tragedy or celebrity or some other extraordinary hook to make people take notice. But as Tia looks at the assembled group - young and old, decent people across multiple spectrums - she’s really proud of the turnout and ready to have a great day. Tia holds out her arms like she’s blessing them with her energy, giving her last marching orders. 

“All right, people, let’s have some fun!”

There’s some clapping as people break off into groups and start moving, and she gets a big thumbs-up from her favorite social media guru. She almost wouldn’t recognize Kat, Jane, and Sutton, so dressed down compared to their fashion-forward alter egos, but they’re smiling and eager to help. Tia greets them as well as Adena. 

She doesn’t talk to the other woman much, just a few brief exchanges when they work near each other. Midafternoon, Adena checks her phone, a move that wouldn’t be remarkable for almost anybody else. 

“I need to pray. I’ll just go inside…”

“Yeah, sure. There’s actually another guy here...,” she says, standing to look for Rasheed. If he’s still here, he’s probably doing the same thing as Adena. “But I can show you.” 

She leads Adena inside, points to a bathroom down a short hallway to their right. “You can wash in there, and I’m sure they’ve got some mats in here or something.” Tia can see Adena’s curiosity and before she can say anything, Tia shares, “I dated a Muslim guy at NYU, from Nigeria.” 

Adena doesn’t get to respond, and Tia feels like she’s been saved from rambling on about what a good guy he was, studying to be an engineer, and why the relationship didn’t work - aside from the obvious reason - like she probably would have had she not spotted her friend. She’s not usually in the habit of putting her business out there. Then again, she and Adena are something close to friends at this point, aren’t they? Anyway, that’s a thought for another time.  

“Hey, Sheed, come here, please,” Tia calls out. 

 "Yo, yo, what’s up?” He pulls Tia into a quick side hug, smiling at them both. His normally clean-shaven brown skin has something pretending to be a mustache on it and she’ll definitely make fun of him later.

“I’d like you to meet Adena. Adena, this is my friend Rasheed, future big-shot attorney.” 

“Never to you. That undergrad struggle was too real,” he jokes before turning his attention to Adena.

After they greet each other, Tia states the obvious, “She wanted a quiet spot to pray.” 

“Say no more, I got you.” 

Happy that they’re set up, Tia walks back outside. It’s a brief assault on her senses, the heat, noise, and almost blinding light. She notices Kat sitting alone but before she can pass by her - intent on helping with some empty paint cans - her girlfriend pats the spot next to her. Oh, and they were supposed to hand out some pamphlets...

“Sit, Ms. Clayton.” 

“I’ll be right--”

“I’m lonely,” she pouts. “Please.” 

Tia notices Kat’s friends getting bottled water, so she kindly points out, “You’ve been by yourself all of two minutes.” 

Nevertheless she sits and it does feel good to be off her feet for a moment, which she knows was the whole reason for Kat asking. They’re both covered in a sheen of sweat and Kat smiles at her, passes her a half-full bottle of water. Tia drinks it quickly, instantly craving more of the coolness.

“Today’s been awesome.” 

“Yeah, it turned out well.” 

“Thanks to you.” Kat tilts her head closer to discreetly ask,  “Can I kiss you?”

After a quick glance around, Tia shakes her head. “Not here.” She doesn’t give herself time to get down or overthink it, just stands up again, says, “But I think I could use your help with something inside.” She grins at the way Kat’s eyes flash with interest. 

They pass Sutton and Jane on the way in, and Adena and Rasheed are talking to each other on their way out. When they offer to assist, Kat is way too we’re-totally-not-hiding-a-secret, blurting, “Nope! No. No, thanks. We got it.” Tia holds her breath to keep from laughing. 

What is she doing? They’ve only got a few moments of solitude in the kitchenette, partially hidden from incoming people, but it’s enough time for stolen bliss. Poor Kat’s stooped over, and Tia would just love to push herself up onto the countertop, Kat fitting between her knees so they could really go for it. Tia stretches up on her toes, all soft and smiley as they kiss. This is so reckless, but Tia can’t find it in herself to care. It’s hard to concentrate on anything else. 

Eventually she does remember that there was a purpose here. She pulls away, and Kat’s so disappointed until she realizes Tia is pulling out popsicles from the freezer. Tia laughs. Kat’s face is priceless, and she’s positive their little rendezvous pales in comparison to the frozen sweets right now. 

“This is why I love you,” Kat says reverently. 

The boxes of treats don’t last long as they pass them around, but she and Kat save a handful for their group, and lucky for him, Rasheed too. He’s hanging near Adena and the girls, arms folded as he talks with them, like he’s been there a minute. Tia supposes he has; she and Kat almost got carried away. 

He bites into his popsicle and stays a little longer before saying goodbye. There might have been a second glance at someone in particular. 

And Tia...can’t really blame him. Painting and digging up soil and all the cleanup they’ve done has left them looking various degrees of worn out. Except Adena. Like someone just delicately misted her with sweat instead of the full-body dousing the rest of them got. Other than her skin being a little flushed, she seems perfectly comfortable in her sleeves and purple headscarf, fresh and very pretty.

“Does he have a habit of barking up the wrong tree?” 

Tia glances at Kat, sees the amusement in her brown eyes, but she doesn’t have to answer because Adena says, “He was just being friendly.” 

It’s mostly true and she tells her girlfriend as much, that Sheed’s a lot like their friend Alex. 

“So there’s nooo history there?” That amusement in her eyes has spread to the rest of her face as she stops pretending to look at her treat and stares at Tia. 

She considers ignoring her, feels her face tingling from more than the sun. “There might have been a makeout or two--”

“Mmmhmmm.”  

“--but we agreed we’re better as friends and...oh whatever,” she finishes, leaning away from Kat’s outstretched arm and trying not to giggle too. 

Adena changes the subject with “I know NYU is a big university, but I always find it interesting how people’s paths cross at certain times but not others. You and Kat never met then?” 

“No but I was busy basically doing a lot of this and student government, plus watching The West Wing all the time.” 

Kat laughs, “You would.” 

“Hey,” Jane pipes up, “that show is amazing.” 

“Top-five all-time,” Tia agrees. She thinks back, looks at Kat and tries to picture her in college. “I guess we might have met when I was a sophomore, but that was your senior year and I’m guessing you weren’t in class much.” 

“That is very true.” 

She turns back to Adena, whose brows are furrowed deeply. 

“You’re younger than Kat?” 

“Yeah.”

Kat bursts out laughing. She asks, “What’s wrong, babe?” when Adena can’t come up with a response after a few moments, but it’s clear she believes she knows what Adena’s thinking. Tia isn’t sure. 

“I just thought you were the same age, or that you might even be older.” 

Sutton says, “She does seem way more mature than Kat, doesn’t she?” Kat grumbles, “Shut up” but Sutton just sticks out her green dyed tongue. “We’ve got a real Doogie Howser on our hands.”

“You’re the only one watching throwback TV. Adena doesn’t know who that is. Do you?” She turns to Tia. “Do you ?” 

Yes, she knows Neil Patrick Harris’s original claim to fame now, but her introduction was his Broadway and television roles. She’s kind of surprised Kat even knows.

Shaking her head, Adena says, “I’m still stuck on the age thing” making them all laugh. They’ve all been high-spirited, actually; it really has been a good time. Adena looks at her with what she feels is admiration, confirms it with her words in the next breath. “I didn’t think you could be any more impressive.” 

Tia doesn’t really know how to feel about it - maybe slightly embarrassed, especially as the other girls chime in their praise - but she works super hard and she’s proud of what she does. A simple thanks will do. 

It’s not much later when they all decide to leave - Adena is meeting her manager and the girls are almost indecently excited to veg out indoors - although Tia’s staying to finish things here. She’s standing next to Adena and smiles up at her. “I’m glad you came. Thank you, all of you,” she adds, trying to include everyone. She shares another look with Adena as she thanks her for the invite, smiling easily when they hug. 

They’re only interrupted by Kat’s loud “Ow! Fuu-uudge!” There are still a few Disney-age kids around. 

She looks between Sutton and Kat but can’t tell what’s going on. Sutton apologizes even though it’s obvious she’s not sorry, says something about a cramp and staying hydrated. Jane and Adena walk off down the sidewalk then Sutton follows, slowly, finally giving her and Kat a moment alone. 

“So how’d I do?” 

Tia immediately knows what Kat means, and she purses her lips, considering. “So chill. Polar bear in a blizzard.” She grins.

Kat nods, her expression changing to full humblebrag. “Nailed it.” 

 

Adena follows her Twitter and Instagram accounts that evening, and Tia ‘likes’ a picture the artist had taken of her with Kat, Jane, and Sutton. None of them were actually looking at the camera, and Tia loves how she can immediately remember that moment of joy laughing with the girls about something at Scarlet. She follows back and spends some time looking at the shots Adena captured during the day. Going through the tagged pictures taken by other volunteers, she retweets one that had included all five of them, and just a few seconds later Adena ‘likes’ it too. 

Tia thinks about it for a moment then sends a short message. Great pictures! Today was lots of fun. 

Adena responds: It was. We should do it again soon.

Tia nods in agreement. Sure. It’s what friends would do.

 

 

2

They come to a silent agreement to just walk instead of immediately getting rides home. It gives Adena some time to order her thoughts after such an abrupt end to the night. 

She truly hopes that Sutton is okay. Kat had been quick to assure them that it wasn’t a physical issue but a friend emergency. Sutton had seemed like her normal self during the night, albeit a little less talkative than usual, and Adena had not seen her become upset. She can understand why the younger woman wouldn’t be in the mood to continue to party. And whatever the issues in her life might be, Adena knows for certain that Kat and Jane will be by her side to help her through it. She’s rarely witnessed a bond so strong as the one those girls share. 

But even though she completely understands, there is a part of her that would be disappointed to end the night now. Especially now that she has a chance to spend time with her present company, a sudden opportunity to have a meaningful conversation. It’s not something she expected to want several months ago. 

“Would you like to go somewhere else?” 

Tia looks at her with mild surprise. “What, like another club?” 

“No, I think I reached my limit. I’m not much of a dancer.” 

“I don’t know, you looked pretty good to me.” Her smile is wide then slowly disappears. She’s flustered, but it’s almost unnoticeable. “I just meant it looked like you were having fun.” 

“I was,” Adena tells her, feeling some surprise of her own at Tia’s words. It’s not unpleasant, thinking back to Tia watching her let loose. And not one-sided, Adena is beginning to realize. She had an intense awareness of the other woman as they danced around each other, unguarded, emotions free. And for a short time, sparkling with glitter brushed off from some other person in the crowd. They had shared a good laugh about that, with Adena trying without success to wipe it away.

“Kat brings that out of me.” 

Tia nods, mismatched earrings bouncing, and here they can both share a smile, another sign of how far they’ve come. 

“She definitely has a way of doing that.” They stop at the edge of the street, and Tia considers her question. “So where’d you like to go?” 

“A quiet place for coffee?” 

“All right, coffee it is.” 

They don’t speak much except to decide on a place and then to go through their routines of ordering and preparing the drinks. Adena casually pays attention to what Tia likes - tonight, a simple cold brew. That is an old habit of hers, from experiencing the beverage in various countries and cultures. She’s very fond of her French press and enjoys Turkish coffee as well, but she chooses one of the house blends here.

Tia looks at her phone. When Adena checks hers she sees several messages. None of them are urgent and she makes a note to respond later, which probably means tomorrow. She doesn’t realize she’s said that aloud until she hears Tia say, “I don’t know how you do it.” Adena puts the device down then and focuses back on her, though Tia continues scrolling through hers. She takes another few sips from her cup then turns the phone face down on the table. 

“In case you couldn’t tell, I live on a steady diet of this” - she points at her drink - “and my news feeds. I can’t help it. Most of my life is on my phone or computer.” Her lips curve upward. “Kat, of all people, has to remind me to take a timeout and back away from it for a minute. Just be in the moment and not worry about what else is happening.” 

Her face is partially hidden behind her cup so Adena doesn’t say anything in response, but she can almost hear the sound as that association clicks into place. Adena swallows the liquid carefully, tries not to laugh. Tia does anyway and rolls her eyes, though not unkindly. 

“And now that I think about it, that sounds very you.” 

When Adena lowers her drink, she knows the confirmation is written on her face. They merely stare at each other for some indefinite time, Tia’s face open and friendly and Adena hoping that hers conveys the same. Something definitely passes between them. 

“I would like to say something and I hope it isn’t too personal.” 

“Okay.” 

“I never wanted to come between you and Kat or disrespect your relationship. I want you to know that.” 

“I believe you, but I appreciate you saying that, actually.” Tia hesitates then admits, “Kat and I--we had some things that we needed to deal with, and you coming back just sort of highlighted that. But we’re good now. Better than good.” 

Even though Adena understands that Tia isn’t saying any of that to rub it in her face, there’s still that tiniest prick of pain in her heart; but she tries to concentrate on the bigger feeling, the better one. That Kat is happy, and almost certainly in love with a wonderful person. 

“I’m glad to hear that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her this happy.” 

Tia demures but can’t hold back a soft smile. 

“We have been through so much together,” Adena starts, remembering the first time Kat came to her studio and Adena had so easily dismissed the attractive but annoying woman and the magazine she represented. Kat had also been annoyingly hard to forget and persistent, which Adena is thankful for now. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes...We both have, and it means so much to me to have the opportunity to be in her life, to be a friend to her even if there is nothing more than that.” 

To be able to support her in the same way that Kat has, and still does, for Adena. She can be self-absorbed when it comes to her career, and she hasn’t always done well seeing the world from Kat’s perspective. The one example that immediately comes to mind is the way she’d left the country after deciding not to renew her visa. Even though she hadn’t talked about her decision with Kat, in her mind Adena made the choice partly for them , not just her work. To give them a real shot at longevity that was nearly impossible with the threat of deportation constantly lurking. Somehow, they made amends. Adena is grateful that they’ve both learned from the past and have come to a better place in their relationship. 

Tonight, she and Tia are both being very honest but going into all of that history seems a little more than necessary. So Adena lets the declaration stand without further explanation. 

And she isn’t sure if she wants Tia to address that last part of her statement either. Despite being ready to settle down with someone, her recent attempts at dating have been brief and unfulfilling. It’s not surprising, given that such a big part of her is still in love with someone else. Is it frustrating? Yes. In some ways she feels silly longing for a woman who has been her ex for more time than she has been her girlfriend. But it also feels strangely appropriate. What would it mean if she could get over what they shared so easily? Regardless, she is determined to enjoy being single, if not ready to mingle, and when the time is right she’ll know.

Her inner monologue has distracted her from the woman across the table. She isn’t one to zone out when she’s in conversation, and it feels like she’s missed a lot of information when she realizes Tia is asking her about politics. She answers that she’s followed US news and politics for awhile - even with all her traveling it’s impossible to escape this country’s influence in the world - but only recently paid close attention to state and local information. Truthfully, she’s learned so much just by being in Tia’s presence.  

“We have this thing called opposition research.” Tia informs her. “Very smart, very thorough people dig into a candidate’s past to find any information whatsoever that might come up in the course of a campaign to be used against them.” Adena nods, sipping her lukewarm coffee. “And no matter how nice and upstanding a candidate is, there’s usually a small part of them that hopes their team finds something dangerous on the other person while they stay clean. A lot of people hurt themselves with their social media presence, but if that doesn’t get them, it’s just as easy now for that information to just so happen to go public with PACs and all sorts of political hitmen to do the dirty work.” 

“That doesn’t seem like you at all,” Adena interrupts. She’s slowly comprehending where this might be going. 

“No but I do understand it.” There is an undeniable fire in her eyes although Tia remains her usual kind self. She pauses, maybe thinking about her next words. 

“Opposition research,” Adena tests the words out slowly. “I like the way that sounds more than stalking. That’s what I was told it’s called when I searched your social media accounts.” 

Tia laughs and Adena can’t keep her face neutral for long. She chuckles too. 

“Oh, you only looked at that? Man, you really are good,” she jokes, eyes widening like she’s completely amazed. “I think I’ve read every article about you from the last three-plus years. Ask me anything, I’m great at trivia.” 

Adena’s laughing outright now and trying not to be a nuisance to the other patrons. Oh well, at least there aren’t many of them. As their amusement fades, Adena acknowledges that being here and back in Kat’s world has also had this unexpected benefit - being friends with Tia.

“I wasn’t looking for dirt on you,” Tia says, face serious again. “I just wanted to know more about you.” 

Adena tilts her head in agreement. “So did I.” 

“You’ve done things I’m still dreaming about. And for the record, I don’t consider you competition anymore either. What you said earlier about Kat being so happy? That has a lot to do with you being back too,” she says quietly. 

She can feel her cheeks blushing, but Adena just checks the time, says, “It’s getting late.” 

“Yeah, we should probably get going,” Tia says, glancing at her phone too. “I guess they might beat us home.” 

They’re getting separate rides and they wait in companionable silence until Tia asks, “Was it ever weird for you, Kat’s friendship with Jane and Sutton?” 

“No,” she answers instantly. Then, “She talked about them often, of course, but I didn’t really understand how close they are until later. It was unexpected...”

“But you can’t imagine them any other way. They’re her people.” 

“Yes.” 

She wouldn’t necessarily use that particular phrasing, but she’s heard Kat say something similar before. It’s not hard to figure out Tia’s meaning in this context. 

“Sorry, that probably seemed random. I was just curious.” 

They wish each other a good night. Aside from the texts making sure everyone has made it home safely, Adena spends a quiet night in contemplation before falling asleep.

 

The next morning, it’s a small miracle that she gets through fajr without distraction. 

Waiting for the kettle to boil, she texts Kat. Good morning. How are you? How is Sutton?

She doesn’t expect the other woman to reply this early in the morning on a weekend, so she goes about making breakfast and planning her day, trying not to behave like a schoolgirl waiting on her crush. Her phone buzzes then she’s smiling despite the circumstance. Adena curls up with it and her food on the couch. 

We’re good, thanks. Thinking about breakfast.

Please eat more than Poptarts. She adds a winking emoji. 

Twins! Tia said the SAME thing!

For a moment, Adena is surprised the other woman is awake as well. Then she recalls last night and what was said. She can clearly picture Tia as a bright-and-early person getting up to check news and weather. 

Strawberry is fruit. 

Fruit with icing and sprinkles?

Kat’s responding emoji has its palms upturned innocently.

Grinning, Adena puts down her phone and eats. She only peers at the device when the next message comes in. 

Might need to cancel plans this week, not sure.

She grabs the phone again, intent on simply saying that’s fine, but another one comes through quickly. 

Nevermind. I don’t know why I said that. I love to spend time with you, Adena.  

It’s small but noticeable right away:  Kat rarely spells out never mind, it’s ‘nvm’ or ‘nm’ to her. That slip in addition to the rest of the statement makes her think some friendly hijinks are going on, even if the sentiment is likely true. She’s relieved that they’re doing well. Adena just smiles and finishes her meal.

 

A few weeks later, Kat meets Adena at her studio looking so out of sorts that Adena is worried. Her anxiety comes off her in waves. Adena had been busy experimenting with some new photos, playing with textures and lighting to try to give them more dimension. Even though Kat insisted that she didn’t want to bother her, it would be impossible for Adena to work like this anyway. So she waits while Kat wrings her hands. 

“I don’t think I can do this anymore. I can’t do it.”

“Do what, Kat?” 

This ,” she says desperately, motioning between them, “with you, with Tia.”

“Okay.” Adena says it calmly, hoping to pass the feeling to her. She has no idea what happened to suddenly make Kat think things have to change. Tia must have--no. She stops that thought, doesn’t want to jump to any unfair conclusions. “I’m not asking you to choose--” 

Kat shakes her head like Adena’s not getting it. “That’s what I’m telling you, I literally can not choose...but this isn’t working for me either...this in-between thing. I love being your friend, but I still miss--I miss sleeping next to you and watching you pray. And hearing the way you fuss over your tea. Kissing that little frowny face you make when you’re concentrating hard. I can’t stop thinking about all those things we don’t have together anymore.” 

“I miss that too.” 

She’d love to hear Kat singing in the shower after work again; to grab her laptop away, both Kat and the device gone into sleep mode, and having Kat ask what time it is in a sleep-rough voice. To hold hands as they stroll through the farmers’ market or an art exhibit.

“Are you seeing anyone else?” 

“No, not anymore. It wasn’t working.” There is a loaded silence, when the questions that she anticipates don’t come. Maybe that is all the confirmation that Kat needs to know that love still burns in her heart, only for Kat. Adena asks, “What do you want to do?” 

“I need a little time. I know what I want,” she says, dark eyes penetrating, leaving no doubt. But then she looks away, vulnerable again. “I just--I need some space to figure it out. I don’t even really understand how I feel this way about you...” 

Both of you. The realization is finally sinking in. She certainly didn’t expect this turn of events - that Kat would feel so torn and the only way to solve it is an open relationship. That is what she’s saying, isn’t it? It is. Adena can see it in her eyes, even as Kat struggles to speak it.

“...and you can decide if this might be something you could want too.”

“Have you talked with Tia about it?” 

“Yeah...sort of. She’s been organizing these town hall meetings and stuff, and I don’t--I don’t want to be a distraction...so we’re taking some time apart too.” 

Adena accepts that with a nod. 

Kat asks, “Can I hug you?” 

She can’t think of any time that they’ve asked permission to do that, but she appreciates it this time. With their emotions so charged - with her gaze locked entirely on Kat coming closer - it would be so easy to give in to the desire that she’s been keeping contained. And she refuses to do that, to sabotage this when it seems like she’s so close to...to having Kat again. If they do this, they have to do it right. 

So Adena quietly says yes, and falls securely against Kat, her arms enough to ground Adena in the midst of such intense emotion of the last few minutes...the last few months, truthfully. Adena presses her face into Kat’s neck, feels the taller woman burrow into the curve of hers. She holds onto Kat tightly, possessive. 

Before Kat pulls away, she rests her forehead against Adena’s, their breaths mingling. Adena lifts her hand to brush the strong line of her jaw. 

“I should go,” Kat nearly whispers. 

“I know.” 

They stay that way for another full minute, at least, until Kat backs away. 

She clears her throat then says, “It’s a lot, I know…” 

“Yes...but we’ve been through a lot before.” That gets a tiny smile out of her. “Thank you for telling me. We’ll talk more...soon?”

After Kat leaves, the slight trembling inside her becomes too hard for Adena to ignore. She can’t concentrate so she decides to go for a walk, then on second thought, packs a small camera. Over the years, some of her best work has come at times like this, facing uncertainty. 

She ends up by the water, studying quietly as people go about their lives. She takes a picture of a group of friends - three of them, carefree and full of life. Adena can feel the edges of her contemplation softening as she looks at the image. It’s beautiful, symbolically. But it doesn’t provide clarity, only more questions.

She’s never considered herself a very jealous person, and she likes Tia very much. But she’s also never loved a woman as deeply as she loves Kat. Is this the answer she’s been waiting for, or must it be all or nothing?

 

{}{}{}

 

She’d thrown herself fully into these town halls, organizing and working on talking points to make sure they address certain issues. But make no mistake, every free moment she’s had over the last several days has been devoted to thinking about Kat and her revelation. She’s considered this from every angle and then reconsidered every one of those conclusions, doing a constant point-counterpoint with herself.  

There’s no way Adena will say no, is there? Friendly or not, it hasn’t been much of a secret that she still has a thing for Kat. Would Tia be wrong to assume she’ll jump at this chance? But if she doesn’t, Tia doesn’t know how, or if, they’ll recover with Kat burdened by that disappointment. 

She slows herself down. The most important decision she’d come to is that she has to make this decision for herself, not just to make Kat happy. She loves her, yes, but she’d rather end it now than be part of a relationship - whether two or three of them in it - that she doesn’t believe in. 

Tia calls Kat. She sighs while waiting, massaging the ache at the nape of her neck. Kat’s always really good at that.

Their greeting is subdued, cautious. 

“Things have been so good. I didn’t mean to dump all this on you right now.” 

“It’s okay, just complicated timing. You didn’t dump anything on me.” She’s not so sheltered that she hasn’t heard of other people in these types of relationships. Does she see it for herself? Well...that’s the question, isn’t it?

“So we’re okay?” 

“Yeah, we are.” 

“Have you--”

“Not yet...but talking to my succulents is very one-sided. And don’t even get me started on the goldfish plant. You’re a way better conversationalist.” 

There’s soft laughter on the other end of the line. Kat gets the subtext: Tia misses her. 

Kat can be sensitive when it comes to Adena, so Tia takes a minute to think about how to articulate something. Kat had mentioned how she probably wouldn’t have handled an open relationship well her first time. Not to criticize Tia, but to downplay her own jumbled emotions, maybe protect her heart in case of rejection. Tia still wants some time to dissect all this, but that part she really wants to address first, now, and trust Kat will let her come to her own decision.

“I just need to say one thing. You’re my first real girlfriend, but you’re not my Adena.” There’s an inhale, a pending question, but Tia hurries on, “What I mean is, even though I know there might be similarities, you don’t have to keep comparing what you might have felt with what I feel.” 

“Okay. I didn’t realize...”

“I know it comes from a place of love and I appreciate that, but I just need you to know you don’t have to.” There’s a stilted pause before Tia asks, “You’ve talked to her?” 

“Yeah,” Kat says, “so now you know.” Relief that it’s all in the open.

She chides herself for still wanting to ask more.

“We do. Take your time, babe. There’s no rush.” 

It’s so distractingly quiet when they hang up. Tia busies herself taking care of her aforementioned plants, none the worse for wear. 

Whether they proceed with this or not, things are about to change.

 

 

Three of a Kind: An Interlude

She studies the group of cards in her hand, asks for any sevens. Sutton blandly tells her, “Go fish.” Kat throws a couple sour gummy candies into the bowl in the middle of their circle, sucking on her pink lemonade candy stick. She sighs, takes another card from the pile...a jack of diamonds. She can’t do jack shit with a jack of diamonds. This must be Sutton’s deck. It’s got to be marked. 

They’re in her and Jane’s apartment, and following a dinner of turkey wraps leftover from one of Kat’s focus groups at Scarlet, they’d decided on a game to unwind for the day; plus some drinks, and copious amounts of candy from the set of a photoshoot. Working at Scarlet really is a gift that keeps on giving. 

Licorice rope in hand, Jane addresses Kat, “Any fours?” 

Kat hands over her card, watches Jane toss Sweet Tarts into the community pot before happily setting aside her pair. Wait, are they supposed to put candy in when they get a match or when they don’t? They really are playing fast and loose with the rules. 

“Oh my god, did you hear what happened to Sage?” 

“At the cabaret?” It’s her turn again. “You got any twos?” 

Jane hands it over, and Kat fist pumps. 

“Yes, but not that. After it.”

Sutton says, “I didn’t hear what happened before, during, or after. “

She and Jane turn to her sympathetically, coo “Oh yeah.” She’s been super busy getting ready for the Fall issue, probably more than both of them combined. She’s eating all of her m&m’s though, not just the green ones, so that’s a sign Sutton’s doing all right, personally and professionally.

They have tears in their eyes from laughing so hard after Sage’s little adventure is retold. She’s either living the dream, wild and full of mistakes, or she’s possibly the unluckiest woman in all of Manhattan. It’s a toss-up. The comments on her column next month are going to be bananas

“Kat, I swear you’re the only one killing it in the dating game right now.” 

“So true,” Jane adds. “You remember Ben?” 

Sutton shares a look with her, grinning, and they both act swoon-y. 

“Doctor Ben!” 

Jane rolls her eyes, takes another card after an unsuccessful request. “Yes, him. Well, he’s about to marry his Mrs. Doctor Chau.” 

“Oh wow, nice.” 

“She’s a doctor too. Did I mention that part? I should’ve stayed with him. He was ready to settle down even then.” 

“Key word: settle. You said there wasn’t a spark,” Sutton reminds her.  

“But he was good, and we had so much in common.”

Kat remembers thinking he was a pretty cool dude, very lowkey, lots of medical advice to give if you wanted it, sometimes even if you didn’t. Adena liked him. They’d only met twice, maybe, but it was enough time for them to have conversation and for her to learn, apparently, Ben was part of some interfaith doctor group. He was very Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way. 

“You deserve great. Never settle.” 

“Except for that one time with the stripper,” Sutton teases her. “That was smart.”

“Cheers to Doctor Ben.” Jane lifts her glass and they toast. She returns her attention to Kat. “Have you considered writing about this?” 

Kat has, and although she does enjoy opening up to their readers and her followers - first, about discovering her queerness, then owning her racial identity and letting that influence a new social and political awareness - she doesn’t think it’s the right move in this case. It’s still so new that she wants to hold it close, protect it. But there are other reasons.

“On the one hand, Tia’s not out to her family - except just one cousin - or at work yet. Like, I could write without giving them names, I guess, but that just feels too risky.”

“Pretty easy to put two and two together based on your socials.” Sutton makes another match. 

“Right, and they’re cool with that. I don’t want to overdo it. But then on the other hand, I think about how awesome it could be. Like, if I could just write about me and learning this stuff and not the actual relationships. There’s so much stigma I could maybe fight against, put a face to it.” 

Jane nods. Kat knows she understands, having written about her own life so many times. 

“On the other other hand--”

“You literally only have two hands, babe.” 

Sutton elbows her. “Speaking of…” They finally notice her empty ones and five sets of matching cards laid on the floor. She gloats, “Game over, losers” while swiping the pot.

Kat drops her cards in disgust. “Every damn time.”

She leans back on her hands, watches Sutton gather and shuffle the deck. Seriously, being a card shark is just one more of her many hidden talents. 

“So have you and your ladies discussed that threesome yet?” 

Grinning, Jane asks, “Or had that threesome yet?” She twirls her licorice like Sage probably did with that feather boa.

Sutton taps into that weird intuition of hers, judges Kat from head to toe. “No way, not a chance.” 

“You don’t know that. We might’ve.” She still can’t think the thought without blushing, but she won’t give in so quickly. They’re already know-it-alls.

“Yeah, no, they haven’t,” Jane concludes. 

Kat gives an eye roll, confesses, “Fine. No, we haven’t done either.” She takes out her candy and points it at Sutton. “The only reason I had that dream was because you brought it up in the first place. It’s your fault.” 

It really seems like a lifetime ago when she’d been obsessing over every gesture, every facial expression, every word. Now she’s got two gorgeous, talented women in her heart, and...yeah, Kat really should stop right there with the way Sutton’s smirking at her. 

“I see. That’s how we’re doing this today?”

Ugh. She really is transparent. 

Kind of your fault, then.”

Dealing out cards again, Sutton tells them, “I’m about to teach you some things.” She always says something like that sounding like a woman who’s worked in Atlantic City for thirty years, smokes a pack a day, and has seen some shit. 

Kat can tell the game by the way Sutton distributes the cards - two for each of them then three community cards dealt face up in the middle. Sutton had once picked Molly’s Game for movie night back when it was out. Kat hadn’t really been paying close attention to the poker details then, she was watching for Idris and Jessica Chastain - she really loves being bi! - but she’s learned some things about poker since. 

“A lil’ Texas hold ‘em,” she says with twang.

Sutton winks at her. “Knew you’d like that.”

Jane makes a crude gesture indicating exactly what they think she’d like to be holding, sending them into peals of laughter. Tipsy and full of sugar, they’re sharing one brain tonight.

“I can’t stand either of you.”

 

Chapter Text

3

The lobby of the Safford building with it’s glass and steel amplifies the splatter of rain and the squeaking shoes of the people escaping it. Adena shakes her umbrella, pulls her jacket tighter to fight against the slight chill in the air. She’s not here for Scarlet business, and therefore, doesn’t have a pass to get through security, but it’s not long before she sees Kat walking in her direction to escort her through. She looks very sharp in her oversized blazer. Adena smiles in greeting, falls into step with her girlfriend as they decide on one of the modern black couches away from the busiest foot traffic. 

Adena crosses her legs, turns her body toward Kat, who does the same. Though she looks at Adena lovingly, there is still a sense that she is distracted, mind still on work. 

“You sat in a board meeting today? Was that this morning?” 

“Yep. Two hours of my life well spent.” It clearly was not. Before Adena can ask, she says, “You already know, they’re stuck in the past.”

She’s earned some freedom on the digital side to push limits, think outside the box, but despite Jacqueline’s support, Adena is well aware of the power struggle.

“You’ll find a way,” she encourages her, reaching to smooth down stray curly hair. Kat grumbles about what the weather is doing to it. 

“Wasn’t all bad though. Our engagement numbers have been high and Lauren Park actually complimented me, so. How’d your meeting go?” She looks at Adena with smiling eyes, more energetic now. 

“It’s official. I have an opening night date for my show, and I’ll be the featured artist for an exhibition the gallery is doing early next year.” 

“Yeeesss, I knew it.” Kat barely lets her get the words out, she’s so excited for her. “They’d have been crazy not to pick you. Okay, so we have to celebrate.”

It does feel really good to be creatively motivated and able to fully commit her time to doing what she loves. A wedding and several small freelance projects have been nice and provided artistic challenges in their own way, but this is her passion.

Adena nods, says, “I was thinking about cooking...tonight? If you’re free, and Tia.” She had already been planning to go to the market, and the rain isn’t so bad that she still can't manage it. “I’m meeting with Firuze to go over some details, but I would love to have you after.” 

“Boooo.” 

She squints her eyes at Kat, confused. 

“You can’t cook your own celebration dinner. It’s against the rules.”

“Who made these rules?” Adena throws right back at her. 

At first Kat doesn’t answer, then just nods like Adena’s revealed some secret of the universe. She hums and can barely hold back a grin.

“So wise. I hope I’m as wise when I’m your age.”

She’s accustomed to this brand of humor by now and keeps her face neutral. “Be careful. You could still be un invited.” 

While they’re talking, they spot Kat’s friends - Sutton with a rack of clothes then Alex. Kat hops up soon after that, deciding she needs to get back to work. She asks Alex to wait but realizes he’s taking the stairs, so she calls out to Sutton instead.

Kat leans in for a brief, sweet kiss. “‘Bye, love.” 

“I’ll see you tonight.”

Adena pulls out her phone to text Tia. 

Are you free for dinner tonight at my place?  

A few minutes go by, and Adena has just put up her umbrella to leave when the reply comes. 

Sure. See you then.  


Firuze makes a note about something in her portfolio then goes quiet for a moment, tapping her pen. She looks over the interview requests and other information about potential gallery showings that they’ve discussed. They probably should have stopped about twenty minutes ago, but after her manager’s evening plans were cancelled at the last minute, Adena was happy to invite her to stay and continue talking as she began her meal prep. It makes perfect sense; Firuze is an invaluable part of her success.

She’s keeping it simple tonight - rice with lentils, and roasted chicken and vegetables - and she stopped by one of her favorite restaurants to pick up a small assortment of desserts.

Soon enough Firuze clears the table of anything art related and sets it for dinner instead. After a rhythmic knock at the door, Firuze crosses the room to answer. She and Kat are stilling catching up in the foyer when there is another knock. That must be Tia. Adena checks that everything is ready, smiling as she follows the sound of friendly voices and Kat making the introductions. 

Adena didn’t tell them. It’s not until that moment that she realizes she hadn’t texted Kat and Tia that they would have someone else joining them. In one way, it doesn’t seem like a big issue. Firuze has been her confidante in personal matters as much as her professional support. She has nothing to hide from her. It’s not as if they’re all having some wild orgy, despite the teasing that she overheard from Sutton to Kat. 

Yet, as she watches Tia and Kat remove their shoes, and Kat leans over to whisper something to Tia, Adena is reminded that they are still finding their way in this relationship as a trio. Still learning each other’s needs and boundaries. But one thing she’s learned about Tia - has known since before they were dating the same woman - is that she is still very cautious about sharing her sexuality. Adena makes a note to check-in, but for now she greets the smiling woman with a hug. 

“Congratulations! One day I’ll be in the MoMA like” - she bumps her elbow to Kat’s, points at an imaginary portrait - “I know her.” Adena laughs. “And I couldn’t come empty-handed, so since I couldn’t bring wine I brought you a plant. I noticed you have a few. It’s a jade plant; very low-maintenance, I promise.” 

She takes the small treelike gift, touched by the gesture. She’d never developed a love of gardening. It never seemed right because of how much time she spent traveling, but she is settled now, and she’s started buying greenery, mostly for sabzi and cooking. This little one, when it starts to grow, will add a pop of color to her home. Vibrant like Tia herself.

“That’s very sweet, thank you. You didn’t have to.” 

“I told her that.” 

“And you’re more than welcome to bring alcohol for you and Kat any time. I don’t mind.” 

Had she not said that? Maybe not. On Tia’s previous visits, it was usually just a quick stop on their way out to someplace where they could get drinks of any kind.

Kat interjects again, “I also told her that . Right twice in one day. Can you believe?” 

Adena has seen that meme and the show. She just shakes her head. Firuze looks on, smiles, silent but interested. 

“Anyway,” Tia begins, rolling her eyes at Kat, “you’ll be doing me a favor. I already have enough, I shouldn’t buy more. But I’ve realized that fifty years from now I won’t be an old cat lady, I’ll be an old plant lady.” 

Firuze says, “Well if our environment keeps declining as rapidly as it has, you’ll probably be able to cope better than most,” getting them all laughing. 

As they move toward the dining area, Adena glances over her shoulder, hearing Kat tease quietly, “But you can still be an old Kat lady if you want.” 

Dinner goes well, and it doesn’t feel as if any of them are censoring themselves. Firuze is a natural communicator and takes a lot of interest in Tia’s work in politics. They all talk about their work but try to keep it light. 

Adena walks Firuze to the door after the meal. Her lips are upturned when she pulls Adena into an embrace, saying that she’s happy for her. 

“Have a good evening.” 

“You too. We’ll talk again tomorrow.” 

Kat is already putting dishes in the sink when Adena turns around. 

“I can do that. Sit, both of you.” 

Kat’s expression tells her there isn’t a chance of that. Tia is leaning against the island, but Adena is sure that’s only because she doesn’t know where everything is. Adena touches her shoulder as she passes, repeating her command with a smile. 

As she’s grabbing containers from her cabinets, Adena says, “You’re more than welcome to take something home.” 

Tia shakes her head. “I can’t.” 

“Are you sure?”

Kat takes her focus off filling the sink with soapy water, props her hip against it while grinning at Adena. 

“Let me tell you some stuff about Adena when it comes to food.” She turns off the tap, enjoying the two pair of attentive eyes on her

“Oh boy.” 

Adena stops what she’s doing, too, folds her arms and waits. “This should be good.” 

Undeterred, Kat says, “First off, she loves saffron and puts it in basically everything.” Adena agrees with that point with a simple nod. Her food wouldn’t be the same without it. “Second, if she asks you to get dried limes, she means these funky looking things that have actually gone through a process to be dried out, not just some old regular ones at the bottom of the bin.” 

“Doesn’t that say more about you than me, that you thought that’s what I meant?” 

Tia extends her finger in Adena’s direction, says, “Point.” 

Kat just shrugs. “Okay, that’s fair. Also, fun fact: the regular type of limes we buy all the time are actually...Persian limes.” Kat puts her fingers to her temple, spreads them wide with exploding sound effect, mind blown! She slides next to Adena, curling her arm around her shoulders. “The last thing is...she’s an amazing cook and she’ll always offer to feed you or send you home with something, like some adorable Persian grandma.” Kat gazes down at her, presses her lips to Adena’s forehead. 

“You know me so well.” 

Kat giggles at the dry humor. She steals a gentle kiss, Adena’s hand lifting to cup her face. 

“I do appreciate the offer,” Tia says, drawing Adena’s eyes back to her. “But I’ve got half a pizza from the office just sitting in my fridge and some other stuff I don’t want to throw away. Maybe next time.” 

After a moment, Adena decides to address the possible issue from earlier. 

“I hope it’s okay that Firuze joined us. She had a sudden change of plans, and I just invited her to stay. Should I have texted…?” 

“Oh, no, it’s fine.” 

“She’s been with me for years. I trust her completely.” 

“Yeah, Kat said she’s totally cool. It’s fine.” 

She doesn’t break Adena’s stare, giving the impression that she really is okay. Adena remembers their first meeting, when Kat had introduced Tia as her girlfriend without hesitation. It seemed obvious from the way they danced together and all the casual touches that she had glimpsed while trying not to look in their direction. But even with everything that had happened between them and their emotional distance at that time, Kat had entrusted her immediately with that information. Maybe it was an issue between her and Tia at some point, Adena doesn’t know, but it pleases her now to know that Tia is willing to trust her too. 

“Honestly, I’ve kind of accepted that me being gay is probably some big open secret. Maybe it’ll be super anticlimactic if slash when I come out, and I’ll wonder why I didn’t do it sooner.” 

Adena doesn’t respond verbally, senses that she should just be there to listen. She finishes putting the leftovers in containers. 

Kat pauses her dish washing, asks, “Everything okay?” 

“Yeah, I’ve just been thinking. Like, what do you say when people ask ‘Are you dating’ and stuff like that? How would you describe this?” 

“Jane and Sutton are really the only people I talk to about my personal life, and they know everything. And Alex, kind of. We haven’t talked about it, but he probably knows something’s up. He definitely knows we’re together,” she says, referring to her and Tia as a couple. “To everybody else? We’re all good friends.” 

“I just refer to you and Kat as friends, as well. Although I think the people in my life who have met Kat assume that we’re back together now. She’s the woman I talk about most, not related to work.” 

“Duh,” she says, cheeks full of mirth and incredibly pinchable.

Social media goes unmentioned, but they’re all familiar with how that medium works and the kinds of comments people make anonymously. Adena can appreciate the best qualities of it and it is fun in small doses, but she likes to keep her involvement to a minimum, aside from her art. The most notable exception being Kat’s Twitter and Instagram. Adena is featured there plenty, their affection very much on display. 

“Not that any people have asked, but I’d say we’re just friends too. It’s always just friends ,” she says in a way that alludes to a longer history. “Now every time some guy asks me out, though, I really want to say ‘Nope, I’m good. I’ve got an awesome girlfriend, and she has a girlfriend that’s pretty cool, and it’s all a little unusual but somehow it’s working and I’m happy so please don’t ask again.’ But I can’t say that no matter how much I’m tempted.”

“Maybe put it on a T-shirt or something?” Tia laughs at Kat’s tension breaker, calls her silly. Kat wipes soap suds from her hands with a towel then steps closer to Tia. More serious, considerate, she says, “You know I’m here for you. Anytime.” 

“I know.” 

Adena watches Kat rub Tia’s arm, the way the shorter woman leans into her body. Kat kisses her hair, styled tonight in cute little twists.

“If there’s ever anything I can do to help, I’ll be happy to. I know coming out is a difficult decision, especially when you feel like you have to choose between it and your family.” She’s gathered enough information over the last couple of months to know that Tia comes from a tight-knit family, and Adena understands what that’s like, with or without the added layer of religion. 

Tia murmurs thanks, is quiet for several heavy beats. 

“Do you ever regret it? Or wish things had been different?” 

Her life has been through so many ups and downs. She felt a desire to leave home even before she fully understood being a lesbian, had this yearning to see the world. That decision coupled with her insistence on living authentically, proud of her sexuality and her faith, has cost her some things, made life more difficult at times. But no, she wouldn’t change any of it. 

“I don’t. It is one of those decisions in my life that I think about often, and I don’t know if I could have done it without my mother’s support...but it was the right decision for me.”

The apartment is silent again, everyone consumed by their own thoughts.

“Crap, I didn’t mean to bring down the mood of the whole night.” 

Smiling in reassurance, Adena says, “You didn’t.” 

Tia looks for something to do. Her hand brushes across Adena’s back as she grabs an extra towel and helps dry the dishes then put them away. 

“You could tell me the names of these dudes. Or handles, I can work with that.” 

“Not happening.” 

Once everything is done, they lounge on the couch and loveseat, making small talk - second helpings of dessert, Adena with her tea. Kat puts her feet up, casual. 

Figuring out how to split time among them. That’s another one of those things that’s still in the early stages. How do they hang out together as a group but still prioritize individual time spent with Kat? All while still respecting her freedom and close bonds with her friends. It had started as one of Kat’s jokes but the joint calendar really has helped. 

Adena’s already thinking ahead. There was nothing on that calendar for tonight or tomorrow, and Tia and Kat arrived separately. She wouldn’t be out of line to ask Kat to stay tonight, would she? 

“Thank you, honeys.” 

“So, will dinner be at your place next time?” She and Tia share in the joke, but Kat doesn’t look amused. 

“Hey, I can cook--”

“You can,” Tia confirms.

“--I just choose not to. Now get over here,” she tells them, sliding her phone from her pocket. “Official group date selfie.”

Kat draws them closer to her, preening for the camera. She posts it to her Instagram, a nice followup to the shot of the full table, captioned N ooshe jân.

Tia says, “It’s late. I think I should be getting out of here” somewhat briskly.

Groaning, Kat drops her head down. “Ugh...I don’t wanna.” 

Adena leans against Kat’s shoulder, wants to say, “You don’t have to” in a direct but considerate-of-the-circumstance way. She just waits instead. 

“I’ve got a department meeting in the AM though.” 

She can hear the quiet smooch as Tia kisses Kat. She stands and Adena does as well, although Tia protests, “No, you don’t have to get up.” Kat reaches her hands out for a lift but gets ignored. They hug - appropriately, with Kat’s body between them - promising to do this again sometime. Kat says her goodbye, too, and Adena follows Tia to the door. 

When she comes back, Kat still looks delightfully content and unwilling to move. 

“Well that was only a little awkward-ish.” Adena tucks one leg beneath herself on the couch, brushes Kat’s arm. Kat meets her eyes. “Thanks for inviting Tia. It didn’t have to be a group night, it could’ve just been us.” 

She props up her hand against her cheek, smiling back. “I like spending time with her. She’s a very interesting person.” Then, “Our night doesn’t have to end yet. Will you stay?” 

She presses her lips to Kat’s neck, savors the warm skin there and nips her earlobe. 

“I’ll have to get up so early.” Kat leans into the temptation despite her words.  

Adena slides her hand up Kat’s thigh, feels the strong muscle as Kat turns. “Is that a yes?” They haven’t spent nearly enough mornings together, but at least Kat does have some things at her apartment to get ready.

Kat’s eyes leave hers and go to her mouth. She moves forward, waits until Adena’s lips part with expectation, then ducks to kiss the dimple in her chin instead.

“You know what you’re doing” is how she answers, with the faintest grin. There’s a noise low in her throat, and she finally gives in, tasting Adena. As they kiss, her fingers sift through Adena’s hair.

 

The morning is still gray when Kat is getting ready to leave. Adena crosses her arms behind Kat’s neck, holding her close, drawing out every moment. Sharing I love yous . Kat has drowsy eyes but is cheerful to rival the approaching sun.  

When they reluctantly part, Kat says, “If I fall asleep in my own meeting…”

“You’re so good you could do it in your sleep.” Kat calls her a sweet talker on the way out the door.

By far, her favorite wake up call.

 

Firuze meets Adena at her studio. She removes her coat and gets straight to business, pulling up a stool so they can talk. 

“Before we get into that, I just need to say something about last night.” Firuze simply waits for her to continue, neither looking surprised nor overly fascinated with what Adena might say, just calm interest. “You know that the three of us have been in an open relationship, but Kat and I are more vocal about our lives than Tia. I know this goes without saying--”

“I’ll handle it with discretion, Adena.” 

“Thank you.” She smiles, taking a seat beside Firuze. 

“You care for her.” 

Adena looks down at her hands, though she doesn’t need time to think about the answer. Maybe it’s just because she’s hearing someone else say it aloud. Kat loves Tia, and Adena loves Kat; therefore, she cares about this person in Kat’s life. But it feels like more than that too. Something that unmistakably draws Adena to her.  

“I do,” she answers quietly. 

Firuze smiles as well, squeezes her hand. “As I said last night, I’m happy for you.” She waits a moment, and Adena can see her shift back into professional mode. “Did you have a chance to think about anything else I said last night? I understand why you have some concerns.” 

“Yes, and I was thinking that we could ask for a different journalist to do the interview. It’s not so much the magazine itself, but some of his stances don’t sit well with me.” 

“We can certainly ask. I’ll make a call and let you know.” She makes another note, this time on her smartphone. “I expected to have to convince you more.” 

Adena picks up her camera. For a second, her eyes pause on an old issue of Scarlet that she’d done a photoshoot for. Firuze follows her gaze, figures out the direction of her thoughts too. 

“You’ve had excellent judgment in the past,” Adena tells her with only a hint of teasing. “I’ve learned to trust it.” 

 

 

4

When Tia gets off the phone, Adena’s looking at her with eyebrows raised in question. She probably couldn’t get much of a sense of what’s going on just hearing Tia’s side of the conversation, other than determining it isn’t good. She sighs.  

“You remember that little talk we had about dirty politics?” 

Adena nods in recognition, asks “Is it very bad?” 

“Maybe not, we’ll see.” She’s already running through scenarios, guesses out loud, “There’ll probably be a negative ad tomorrow. We’re about to meet now to brainstorm, make sure we’re prepared with the right response.” 

Now where’d she leave…? Ah, there it is. She sees her purse sitting at a chair at Kat’s table. Kat herself is still down at the bodega...and she can’t even remember why. Tia hates to leave while she’s out, but Adena can explain there’s a work emergency and she knows Kat’ll be understanding. It’s not the first time this kind of thing has happened in the middle of a movie night. 

“I hope everything works out.” 

Her low voice is comforting next to Tia’s ear as they hug. She tightens her arms around the taller woman, offers thanks. Her mind is half on damage control, and there’s a joke on the tip of her tongue about not letting Kat watch the movie without her; but then it stops unexpectedly on something completely different. Adena has gorgeous long eyelashes. They flutter closed and Tia should open her eyes again just to count them. But her lips are so nice, softer than she--

She’s kissing Adena. Holy crap!

Her eyes pop open. Their arms are still loosely wrapped around each other as they lean back, and Tia couldn’t say who that little gasp just now belongs to. Frankly, her senses are all over the place. They separate completely, neither woman breaking eye contact while the uncertainty and attraction flow between them, a magnetic push and pull. 

“Okay, that was...I really should be going…”

“Tia…” 

What’s that look? It’s not quite a smile but it’s good, right?

“That wasn’t…” Why is she stammering like this? Where is all her composure? “I’m fine with that. I didn’t mind it.” 

Adena’s exhale is audible, and now one corner of her mouth definitely turns up. Tia’s cheeks heat up, filling out, letting Adena know she really didn’t mind at all. 

“Yeah, it was nice.” 

“Yeah.” 

Well now they’ve already kissed goodbye, apparently, and out of the corner of her eye she sees the door open unexpectedly. Kat grins from ear to ear, totally oblivious, her plastic bag rustling loudly. 

“Hey, so what’d I miss? 

 

They play phone tag for a few days before Tia realizes that this just might not be a conversation they have in person right now. She prefers face-to-face, but she’s all right if they don’t this time. Compared to so many of her big love life decisions, she’s not experiencing much angst about this. After the high of the kiss had worn off, Tia thought it seemed rather natural. A brief meeting of the lips to say goodbye like so many people do. She and Adena have been getting closer, more comfortable with each other, and acting on it wasn’t destined, per se, but it wasn’t a complete surprise either. 

Tia can admit she’s been interested for awhile. She couldn’t pinpoint one specific moment because it’s been building in little ways. Like the time they’d all been out at some event in the park - Jane and Sutton too - and Adena was taking pictures. Tia had jokingly told Adena to get her good side, and Adena said that would be any angle, that she photographs beautifully. Definitely flirty, no pretense. Even Sutton noticed and playfully warned Kat that they might run away together. They’d joked about doing just that next time Kat got in a foul mood, even though it has zero chance of really happening. For sure, though, she and Adena have been testing the water. 

But does she feel that terrifying knot inside the way she had when she’d kissed a girl for the first time, or even when she took a chance with Kat? Not really. Maybe that’s because she’s in a different place in her life with regard to being gay, less fearful. Or it could be because she and Adena just aren’t meant to be like that romantically. Either way, it felt good, comfortable, and she’d love to do it more if Adena agrees. 

Tia gives up folding laundry - anything that doesn’t need to be on a hanger can wait. She’s patient while the video chat rings, then thankfully, connects.  

“Hi.” 

“Hello.” Adena pushes her hair back, does this little head shake, incredulous, and Tia knows exactly how she feels. “It’s good to see you.” 

“You too. I guess we--”

“--know how you--”

They both stop, laughing at themselves, and Tia tells Adena to go first. 

“I just wanted to say that even though what happened the other night was unexpected, I liked it a lot.” 

“So did I, and I wouldn’t be opposed to us doing it again. I mean, I’m open to kind of taking it slow and seeing where it goes.” 

“Good. Me too.” 

She can feel a toothy grin spreading across her face, making Adena look at her curiously. 

Then, with a knowing head tilt, “Kat.” 

“Kat,” she agrees. “I guess the only real question is when to tell her. And is she going to lose her mind?” 

 

Dominique is standing in her doorway wearing sweats, carrying a brown paper bag in one hand and a box of pizza in the other. Tia’s extremely happy to see her but the first words out of her mouth are, “I am so tired of pizza.” She can blame sleep deprivation for the loss of manners.

The other woman doesn’t falter, instead comes right on in like she’s supposed to. 

“That’s okay. You don’t have to eat a single free slice of it.” 

“I’m sorry. Hey, Dominique. Thanks for bringing food.” She shakes her head, following her cousin into the kitchen. “We’ve just had so much pizza at the office recently.”

“Lucky for you,” she says, lifting the bag onto the counter, “I brought you hot wings instead of pizza.” 

Tia mouths thank you and gets napkins and plates.

When they’re seated in front of the TV and digging into their food, Dominique asks, “So what’s up? You’ve been so busy it’s been a minute since we talked.” 

She considers easing into this conversation but decides to just be up front.  

“I kissed someone.” 

“Oh Tia.” Dominique puts a hand on Tia’s knee, sympathetic. “Girl…”

“It was Adena. I kissed Adena.” 

“Girl!” Dominique shouts it this time, almost drops her half-eaten slice. “Why didn’t you say that first? I’m over here thinking you and Kat are about to break up and I have to--”

“No no, you didn’t let me get it out. I didn’t mean it like that.” She giggles anyway. 

“But still, this is kind of big. You kissed her ?” 

Tia frowns trying to remember the moment exactly. She can’t really say who leaned in first. They were already touching and then it happened all at once.  

“We were saying goodbye and we both just went for it. And before you ask, we’ve talked about it and we’re both on the same page. We’re not putting any label on it yet, just taking it slow and seeing what kind of chemistry we have.” 

Dominique says, “Look at you,” smirking. Tia looks away, goes back to eating her wings, bashful. 

After a few moments, Dominique puts her empty plate on the coffee table. She wipes her hands and mouth, suddenly looking more like a big sister. Tia can see more questions and probably advice coming. 

“So you’re cool with her, then?” 

“Adena? Yeah. I wouldn’t have agreed to the open relationship if I wasn’t.” 

“Okay. I just want to be sure, that’s all.” 

They’ve got some Black girl telepathy going on because Tia knows what Dominique’s saying even without actually saying it. She’s had these discussions more than once over the years with her girl friends, about not wanting to be someone’s experiment, or excuse for problematic behavior.

“It’s not like that. Kat--” 

“She can be a little…” 

“Bougie, I know.” Tia laughs, “She knows.” 

Dominique raises her brows, says, “Bougie, yeah, let’s go with that word.” 

She doesn’t mean offense, but Tia kindly reminds her, “Still my girlfriend. Watch it.” Dominique raises her palms, backing off.

Kat has internalized a lot over the years, and she still has those moments of reverting to that colorblind worldview she used for so long. Tia doesn’t hold it against her because, for one thing, Kat can usually recognize that in herself. The other reason is that Tia has been judged before too. Despite all the bad in this country since its very inception, she still believes in its stated ideals and the rule of law, that they only need the right people in positions of power for justice to prevail. She’d rather call that optimism than naivete.

“I’ve thought about it, believe me.” She’s gotten the impression that Adena and Kat both had to work through some things, as one would expect, but she doesn’t have all the facts. So she’s not divulging that tonight. Tia’s satisfied that, “Adena’s not that type of person. She’s real. I’m not concerned about that part of it.” 

“Or whether this might mess up the whole arrangement if it’s not what you think it is?” 

“That is something I’m still debating. I think we could’ve become friends even if Kat wasn’t in the picture, but this is just how it worked out. And I love Kat so much.” She takes a deep breath, says with total sincerity, “I think we’re all mature enough to handle it.” 

“Then that’s enough for me. I’m not trying to talk you out of anything, just looking out for you. Gotta keep your head on right.”

Tia gets it and appreciates the concern, but holds out her hands like, This is me you’re talking to . She’s always been logical and by the book. 

“Nobody is using anybody, including me. It just feels so good to be able to like someone - women - and not be so scared and paranoid about it.” Looking back, she would hardly classify her previous relationships as dating, although they were important helping her learn to accept herself. “I know I’ve got a long way to go but I feel great. I’ve never felt like that before.” 

Dominique nods, smiling just because Tia is. “You deserve to. Out here going to gay weddings and racking up women. If I see you in a parade with your titties out, I won’t be surprised one bit.” 

The rest of the night proceeds much like that, with her love life fair game and Dominique’s too. Tia’s sides hurt from laughing so hard.

 

{}{}{}

 

She should’ve known something was up that first time. She’d made a Hamilton reference and Tia said nada . Always a dead giveaway. 

She watches them now from across Tia’s living room, the way their hands touch along the back of the couch, unselfconscious about the tiny intimate strokes of their fingers. They’ve watched two episodes of Pose so far. It’s one of the few shows that mixes a little of all their interests - female friendships, artistic expression, queerness, sociopolitical relevance, and best of all, 80’s fashion. Kat’s been seated on the floor between them while they helped her maintain her braids. They’d paused the TV between the first two episodes to finish that. Have they been sitting there for the last forty-five minutes doing this? 

Kat mixes another splash of vodka into her cranberry juice and clears her throat as she crosses the room. She considers looking at them over the rim of her glasses, stern like a teacher, but nah. When she doesn’t sit, they look up at her wondering what’s the hold up. 

“So are we ever going to talk about this?” Okay, that was still a tad dramatic. 

Adena asks, “What happened to giving us space?” 

“Please don’t use my words against me. You know I’m not patient.” 

“Yes, that is very clear.” 

She says it so passively, but her girlfriend is most likely laughing at her on the inside. The other girlfriend has no problem showing her amusement. Kat’s face must look really stupid right now because then Adena’s shoulders start to shake. 

“All right, ha ha, laugh it up.” She puts her cup down on the coffee table then sits on it facing them. She’s smiling too. The sound of their laughter is contagious, and there’s nothing she’s mad at whatsoever. But Kat’s really fucking curious, okay? It’s been weeks of all these casual touches and gentle kisses - and zipped lips! “Seriously, though, I can be patient if you really need that but...” 

“You don’t want to be,” Tia sums it up. She’s so smart and so cute and Kat could kiss that grin right off her face. 

“No, I don’t. Please .” She clasps her hands in front of her, pokes out her bottom lip. “Don’t make me call a formal group meeting. I don’t want to but I will.” Tia’s very serious when it comes to procedure; that’ll get her. 

They share a look, hands eventually retreating back to their respective personal space. 

“Okay,” Adena answers, then asks, “What would you like to know?” 

“I guess...are you dating?” 

Another shared moment, something soft, which makes the next word a surprise. 

“No.” They repeat each other, so they’ve definitely talked about it. 

Adena explains, “We’re still friends. Tia and I have gotten much closer and we enjoy each other’s company.” 

“And we kind of figured out we really like being affectionate,” Tia continues, “but we aren’t girlfriends.”

“Soo...friends with benefits?” 

Tia nods. “Yeah, you could say that.”

Kat takes some time to absorb that. For months now Adena and Tia have been spending a pretty good amount of time together because of her - for her - but she can’t think of a single time where she’d thought they were doing it for themselves. Not before the open relationship, at least. Then again, it’s very possible that Kat missed some clues. She’d been stressing out about her own feelings, and that was clouding her perception of their interactions. Sort of. There was definitely some time there when they were a little standoffish. Speaking of which…

“I just find it funny how both of you were like” - she sucks her teeth, flips her hair dismissively, attitude to make any reality-show Housewife proud - “‘I do not wanna spend time with her’ and ‘Ugh, does she have to be there,’ but now you’re making out in front of me.” 

“Name one time,” Tia challenges. 

Adena’s jaw drops, actually offended. “Piâz dâgh râ ziâd kardan.” Kat’s like uhh , totally lost until Adena translates, “It means you exaggerate, as usual.” 

Now it’s Kat’s turn to laugh and the pettiness feels really good, to be honest. Once they stop glaring at her, Kat asks, “How’d it happen though? What changed?” She might be pushing it with the questions but they both still seem receptive to talking. That’s one thing they’re all experiencing together, that need for frequent communication. 

“Do you remember the time we went out to that club with Sutton and Jane, and we left early because Sutton was having a rough time? We decided to call it a night because you wanted to be with her, and she probably didn’t want to be around anyone but you two.” 

She nods letting Tia know she remembers. Of course she does. It definitely shook her. If there’s anyone who knows Kat, understands the way she often deflects or masks her emotions with humor, it’s Sutton. Because she does the same damn thing. The difference is that Sutton is way more in touch with hers, even if she’s not much more likely to reveal them. Kat tends to go for the wait-until-I’m-metaphorically-backed-into-a-corner method, but it works for her…until it doesn’t. She’s a work in progress, but she’s thinking about Sutton right now.

Once Sutton opened up, Kat got it. Stuff with her mom is still unstable at times. Add to that the on-again, off-again thing with Richard Hunter, and the usually unflappable Sutton Brady was...flappable. She wasn’t hysterical or having a crying fit, just not her usual self. She and Jane were right there with her all night, but she thought about her other girls too. 

“--so we went out for coffee and had a real conversation.” 

“For me, that was when I felt we truly bonded. We discussed our relationships with you, of course…” 

“Campaign strategy.” Adena hums in agreement. Clearly an inside joke, but Kat doesn’t even think that’s code.

“And that. But we also acknowledged that your friends are the most important people in your life.” 

“Yeah, it seemed kind of pointless to fight over you after that. Who does that anymore?” 

Tia’s totally being sarcastic and Kat gives it right back, asks, “But didn’t you know that, like, from the very beginning?” 

She looks into Adena’s eyes and her grin slips away. 

“The heart isn’t rational, Kat. Love is...” There’s a subtle shrug of her shoulder, and somehow the way she trails off perfectly signifies the magnitude.

Leave it to Adena to make her get teary-eyed out of nowhere. She could make terms and conditions sound poetic, and Kat loves that about her. 

“I know,” she murmurs.

They really have been through a lot of stuff, all of them. She was so overjoyed to have Adena back, only to feel like she was losing Tia because of it; then terrified that she’d run them both off by wanting too much. And now here they are. She holds out a hand to both of them, smiles at them without jokes or teasing, just 100% genuine love. It’s always been about that - their love for her and her for them. They just let other negative things get in the way. But now there’s enough love to share. Cheesy, but it’s true. 

Tia’s thumb caresses the back of her hand. Adena tightens hers.

“I’m happy for you. Whatever you want to do, however you feel, I’ll support you.”

Their thanks are quiet, and Kat tells them she’s done. She retakes her seat in front of them so they can get in another episode. 

Okay, no, she lied. She can’t resist one more thing. 

Kat tilts her head back, looking at them upside down. She whispers, “But what kind of benefits though?”

She gets told to watch the show and nothing more.

 

 

5

Tia’s never been much of a partier. She likes to have fun, yeah, but her nose has always been in the books. Family expectations, avoidance of temptation, all of that has come into play over the years. Save a few missteps, she’s kept herself on the straight and narrow - pun intended. 

She tends to kick back and relax more these days, but she’s never been to a gathering like this. So many people of color - Kat’s first observation, along with an irreverent Bless! - and most, if not all, LGBTQ. Kat had gotten the invite through some of her connections, and now the three of them are here. She feels welcomed by the bass, encouraged by the knowing eyes and grinding bodies surrounding them, almost overwhelmed by simply existing in a room like this. A celebration of genders and orientations and whatever else an ordinary house in Brooklyn will let them be tonight. 

Kat pulls her closer with the arm around her waist, says against her ear, “Cool, right?” She feels the words more than hears them, nods her agreement, as their bodies roll together. Tia cups Kat’s neck, pulling her in until she tastes full lips, pliant and wet with something tangy sweet. 

Two other hands squeeze her waist, and Tia meets Adena’s smoky eyes. She motions to them that she’s stepping outside away from the overheated crush they’re in. Kat goes another direction, mouths drink , so Tia touches her friend’s back, trails behind her. Adena reaches blindly, entwines their fingers.

There isn’t much of a yard to speak of, but they enjoy the space, city lights and big sky all around. They lean against the stair railing only inches apart. Adena’s wearing a glittering pendant, and Tia’s fingers trail delicately down her neck, the soft material of her shirt, until she holds the gem. Adena covers her hand, doesn’t need to speak. Tia feels it too. 

Kat shows up with another cup...and a joint. 

She didn’t expect that. There’s a paper-thin barrier around their inhibitions tonight, it seems. Tia sips while Kat lights up. She’s not going to ask but she will partake. 

Adena watches them closely, and Tia asks, “Have you ever?” 

“Not weed, no.” 

Finally releasing her breath, Kat grins. Tia can tell she’s already feeling good. Damn. 

“But drinking that Ayahuasca!” At her frown, Kat leans into the curling white ribbons between them, repeats herself. 

That was a spiritual ceremony.” 

“So high I saw heaven.” She waves her hand as if viewing something magical on the horizon. 

Adena rolls her eyes, shaking her head. Tia chuckles. Neither would really make fun of her for her beliefs, and she can tell that Adena’s not upset. Tia loves her sense of humor even though the older woman often has such a serious expression - ironic, her talking about anyone being too serious - one that’s cracking faced with Kat’s infectious personality.

Tia holds out the blunt in offering. Adena stares at it. She licks her lips, then looks at Tia’s, before shaking her head again. She lays her hands on them both, tells them to enjoy, then disappears for another round of dancing. Tia’s still staring after her when she hears Kat. 

“Gonna pass it back?” 

She steps closer to Kat, eyes drawn by the low cut of her top. It’d be so easy to kiss the soft swells of her breasts. Tia’s heart rate speeds up. There are some advantages to being below average height. Kat senses exactly where her mind has gone, not hard to do with Tia mentally undressing her. 

The railing is just wide enough to sit without the risk of falling and embarrassing herself. And there’s Kat, hands braced around her. Tia crosses her ankles behind her girlfriend’s legs. Kat’s only ever let her fall in love.

Smirking, she lifts Tia’s hand but doesn’t take the joint. Kat teases, “Didn’t know if you still had it in you, Ms. Clayton” while lighting it again. She could point out that Kat has said it’s been awhile since she did this, too, but decides words are unnecessary right now. 

Tia takes another pull, stares into Kat’s hooded eyes and opens her mouth, their lips grazing as the smoke passes between them. Faintly, Syd’s mellow tones weave around them, luxurious. They spend an indefinite time just that way, lips and tongues free to explore in a lusty haze. 

No, not a haze, Tia corrects herself. She caresses warm skin beneath her palm, Kat’s forehead pressed to hers. Gentle fingers trace the shell of her ear. Tia smiles, floats on incredible feelings having nothing to do with a drug. She’s perfectly clear, this is who she’s meant to be. 

 

{}{}{}

 

Kat wanted proof that Adena has rhythm. A test, Adena recalls. First a pop song then something a little more hip-hop, until Kat was satisfied Adena could move her hips and shoulders with some coordination, even if she didn’t know the latest fad dances. That was so early on, before Kat had walked in on her dancing to Bollywood songs or favorites from childhood; stopped what she was doing on her laptop, amused to watch Adena nodding to the tune of something in her ear buds.

As she takes her place tonight among this crowd - most new, but some familiar faces - she thinks about how music has connected them. It was one way they stayed connected even when things were unsteady. When they talked, Adena would let Kat know what songs she was listening to, almost always a direct reflection of her emotion though she tried not to share the most melancholic. Kat would send recommendations often and Adena would listen no matter whether she was at home or shooting in some remote location. She knew names like Cardi and Lizzo - not her usual style - before they became radio mainstays because of Kat. Because she always has people sending her music, plus her own strong grasp of pop culture. An affinity for knowing what makes people feel good. 

Lost in thought, Adena smiles back at the woman in front of her. Other arms wrap around her from behind, loose but firm, and Adena can immediately sense who it is. There’s safety in that embrace, an entire universe only for them. Her momentary companion fades away with the song, and Adena turns to Kat, locking her fingers behind her neck. Her grin is uneven, eyes droopy, but Adena can’t resist rocking up to kiss her, tasting the pungent flavor of her mouth. She playfully wrinkles her nose at the taste. Kat’s hands cover her hips, keeping her close. They’re moving to their own beat. 

At times she lost faith that there would be more nights like this, but against the odds they’re here, together. It would be impossible to live with anything less now. 

She raises her eyebrows in question, says Tia’s name but it gets drowned out by the next song starting up. Adena spots her anyway. Tia slides in with them, and Adena delights in the scent of her perfume, a warm brightness as she leans into the shorter woman’s neck. They all dance for what feels like a long time, rarely losing contact with each other. Adena holds Tia’s hand at one point, spinning her in a circle, throwing them completely off. Kat will just have to forgive her this one.

After Kat stumbles another time, it seems like a good moment to take a break. Adena finds a bottle of water, following the other two into the bedroom of one of their hosts. It’s cooler, less of an assault on their ears too, though the floor and walls still vibrate. She pushes the door nearly closed behind them. 

Tia’s asking Kat how she feels, and Kat basically gulps the water before answering, “Hot. Tired. Kinda got a headache.” 

It’s not much to go on, but she’s still a little concerned by the sluggishness of Kat’s movements. 

Adena asks, “Was it the weed?” There’s a languidness to Tia’s words too, but she doesn’t seem as affected. Her eyes, though reddened, are nearly as alert as before.

“I don’t think so,” she answers. “I’m fine.” 

“You are. You so are,” Kat says, grinning unexpectedly. She pulls her closer. “My little sweetie.” Before they can remind her that she looked ready to fall on her face seconds ago, Kat explains, “Went out for drinks to celebrate the Fall issue. Had rum and Coke then we did shots. Why’d I do shots?” she whines. Her eyes close, sighing, “Think I just overdid it.” 

Adena leans into Kat’s other side feeling satisfied with that answer. Quietly, she suggests, “I think it’s time to go home.” 

Kat looks at the bed, entranced. 

“Why? There’s a bed right here.” She pulls both of them toward it, walking backward rather awkwardly. She plops down on the edge of it, grinning up at her and Tia without shame. “We could just…” 

“Ooh, no, don’t do that,” Tia warns urgently, pulls her back upright. 

Frowning, Kat follows Tia’s line of sight. 

“That...is...fresh,” she says, staring at the dark stains. She makes gagging noises. Adena would rather not have seen them either. This is definitely a night to remember.

“Let’s get out of here before any of us catches something.” 

They both tug her until she’s standing, with Adena having to coax her with an extra “Come on, baby.” 

Back outside in the city, Kat leans on them heavily, an arm slung over each of their shoulders. They wouldn’t make it very far at this pace, but Kat says the cool air feels good, so they walk just a little bit. They call a ride, shuffling Kat into the backseat between them, deciding to take the longer trip back to her apartment. It’s likely that she’ll be a pitiful grump tomorrow. Best to take her home now.

As she and Tia settle into bed, Kat’s last words of the night, “I love two women.” 

 

{}{}{}

 

She hates everything.

The pain behind her eyes, the drumming in her head. The cashmere sweater she ate whole. She hates it all.

Where’s the pizza? With...cinnamon? 

Kat peeps open one eye, testing whether it will kill her, then cracks open the other when she’s still breathing. Her lovely girlfriends sit at the table eating breakfast like the not-hungover women they are. Not them, she could never hate them. She boosts herself up a little more, blinking slowly, head swimming. 

Tia says, “Good morning.” 

“Is it?” Her voice is literally a croak. She starts to clear it then changes her mind. Sounded like her garbage disposal, even worse.

“Legally speaking, I’m not sure how you survived.” She’s eating one of Kat’s Hot Pockets - that’s the cheese and pepperoni goodness Kat smelled - so she has no right to make fun of her.

Adena turns around in her chair, smiling slightly at her. “How do you feel?” 

She might have indulged too much last night, but it wouldn’t be the first time. She’ll be all right. Eventually. Kat tells them she’s not so bad, then asks, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t a complete mess, was I?”

Shotgunning with Tia, the softness of her lips. Being really turned on by Adena in leather pants. Those are basically her highlights, although the party itself was great, for sure.

“Define ‘complete mess.’” Adena this time, getting up to rinse her bowl - was oatmeal, probably. They’re having too much fun at her expense.

“You weren’t,” Tia answers before Kat can speak. “Just happy, handsy, and wishing for a threesome.” 

What? 

Kat looks at them seriously and they stare right back. Nope, they’re not fucking with her. She groans, mortified, and drops her head back onto her pillow. 

“I said that? Out loud ?” 

It’s quiet for a few seconds until Tia says, “You’re the only one in this room surprised by that.”

She can’t manage to look them in the eye, just stares at her ceiling. She’s opened up about so many things with them - in regard to this relationship and just about her life in general - it seems silly to still be a little embarrassed about wanting this. It just feel so stereotypical. Doesn’t make her want it less though. 

To be perfectly honest, she thought she’d be automatically having more sex just based on simple math. Double the girlfriends, double the sex. It hasn’t worked out that way. There’s more friends and jobs and periods and time commitments to think about, and sometimes it cuts into intimate time. Sex isn’t why she wanted an open relationship, but yeah, she’s thought about the possibilties. She doesn’t need it, not at all...but if there’s a chance…

“So I guess we should talk about that.” 

“I’m open to it.” 

“So am I.”

Oh. Just like that, huh? 

Kat sits semi-upright again, looking surprised. She knows she kind of sounds like Tia with, “Really?” 

“Mmhm,” Adena starts. “Although I do think we should talk about it more when you’re in a better condition.” 

She looks to Tia for confirmation. 

“I don’t think things with us would progress that far right now” - she looks to Adena, who nods - “but we can discuss it and find something that works for everybody.” 

“Like some magic word? Or my birthday?” Her tone is playfully curious. Look at that, some of her energy’s already back. They repeat that they can talk about it later and go on getting ready for their days ahead. 

Taking her turn in the bathroom, Kat curses her pimpled reflection, growls loudly. PMS is a bitch. 

Feeling slightly more alive and clean, Kat goes to the table. Tia puts a Hot Pocket in the microwave for her, and Kat snags her around the waist with both arms, laying her face against her chest. She says she has errands to run, needs to get a haircut. She tilts Kat’s face up, kissing her, calls her sexy. Kat has to break the news that she’s a liar.  

Adena comes over too - it’s the studio for her today - and kisses her. Kat’s face is sandwiched between their boobs as they say goodbye to each other and there are much worse places to be. 

The microwave dings just as her door closes. Her head’s resting on her folded arms, and she reaches out toward her hidden breakfast. Sadly, it doesn’t come to her by magic. 

 

She walks in on Jane sitting on the futon, fingers tracing the glossy pages of Scarlet, a proud smile on her red lips. 

“You two need a minute? I can come back.” 

She jokes but Kat knows what a big deal it is for her friend to have a small feature article in the magazine’s biggest issue. Sutton, too, with her styling co-credits. Basically, her friends are the bomb...dot com. The Web hits are proving it, and print sales are pretty strong so far.

“Have you seen Sutton?” 

Kat had seen her during Jacqueline’s impromptu speech to the whole office, looking anywhere but at Richard. Except for the times she did. Jane nods, says she noticed that too.

“So are they back on or…?” 

Jane says, “No idea. She hasn’t talked to me about it either.” 

Kat sits on the floor, happy to take a little break while they chat. 

“Hey, so you know that thing we talked about? Me writing about being poly?” 

Leaning forward, Jane tells her, “Yeah. You’re doing it?” 

“I want to. I mean, I--” 

“Please call it Kat’s Korner,” Sutton says, breezing into the closet. “With a ‘K’ obviously. Please.” 

“There she is, just in time. I was saying I don’t know how it’ll work yet - I know Jacqueline’s not really a fan of anonymous pieces - but yeah. I just want to be real with people and maybe it’ll help someone else with whatever they’re dealing with.” 

Jane smiles even bigger. “I eagerly await your return to the blogosphere.” 

“Thank you, darling,” she laughs. 

“Have you considered a portmanteau?” Sutton asks, eyeing the jewelry. “I was thinking KAT.” 

“About what?” 

Sutton taps her on the head, punctuating each letter. “K-A-T, your initials. Kat, Adena, Tia. Everyone’ll think you’re just writing in third person, but only those of us in the know will know.” 

“Stinking genius.” 

“Thank you for your suggestions. We’ll take them into consideration,” Kat says. “Where have you been?” 

“Where do you think?” Answering a question with a question. Hmm. “Fashion never sleeps. Which is why I need to get back to Oliver…” She pulls Kat onto her feet, and the three of them head back out to the bullpen.

Kat doesn’t say anything about it, but she knows for a fact Oliver left the office shortly after everyone broke up. And Richard went to Jacqueline’s office...where Kat can see he’s still sitting. Interesting. Jane’s in the dark too, but Kat needs more intel. Maybe Alex has noticed something. She’ll ask. There’s an intriguing mystery here, and she’s determined to solve it. 

 

She cooked dinner because she’s thoughtful like that. Also, so they’ll stop teasing her about being on a first-name basis with most of the restuarants in her neighborhood. It’s important to support the local economy, and Kat is just doing her part. 

Tia’s thanking her profusely, still tasting like Kat’s delicious balsamic reduction. Kat’s hands circle her small waist, fingers toying with the belt accenting her dress. When Tia steps back, a sexy-as-hell gleam in her eye, Kat curls her hands around the edge of the table she’s seated on, swallowing her nerves. 

“Adena.” She glances over her shoulder until she can see her. Then she reaches for Tia’s hand, soft and steady, so she doesn’t move farther away. Adena comes around front. Kat finds her confidence. She looks back and forth at them, quietly asks, “Can we try it tonight? All of us.” 

Kat feels her heart thumping in her ears, waiting. Then faster, excited, when they both say yes. 

She’s already so fucking turned on after just a few minutes of watching them, lips and tongues in no hurry, sharing secrets. Kat stands, arms going around them. It draws Adena’s attention, and Kat takes her mouth. She moans quietly at the feel of fingers cupping the back of her neck, then more hands beneath her shirt, caressing her skin. She rests her forehead against Adena’s, turns just enough to look down into Tia’s seductive eyes. She leans over to lick at her lips, too, smiling at the heavy sound of all their combined breaths. 

The path toward the bed is slow, their actions eager but never careless as they undress. They know exactly how to cup her breasts, tease her nipples to aching, then soothe them with a soft tongue. Adena’s thigh between Tia’s, bodies chest to chest, sensual words no doubt vibrating from Tia’s ear directly down to her core. Kat’s hand is working its way down. Her middle finger strokes over a soft cotton barrier, arousal already pooled there, drawing out Tia’s soft whimpers. She pushes Kat away, and Kat merely grins, finds herself in Adena’s arms. 

Kat nuzzles Adena’s collarbones, hands squeezing soft flesh until Adena pushes her back onto the bed. Naked, Tia crawls up beside her. Adena kneels between Kat’s spread legs, practiced hands gripping her thighs. 

“I’m so fucking ready. You barely have to touch me.” Tia cradles her face with one hand, thumb tracing her lips. She flicks it with her tongue, smirks up at her as she takes it into her mouth. There’ll be time for that in a little while. 

Her hips lift, focus going back to Adena dragging down her panties. 

“So are we just the means to an end?” That quirk of her brow is so dangerous, so, so good. Adena’s gonna make her say it.

Fuck, she wishes one of them was inside her already.

“No. I want to come,” she murmurs, staring into rich, dark eyes in front of her, then their mirror hovering above, “for you.” 

Tia draws her up, drinking the devotion. As their tongues dance, she feels warm lips pressing into her thighs, moving higher. She gasps at the first brush of Adena’s nose to her damp curls, the little puffs of air. She flicks the tip of her clit, fingers spreading her wider but there’s no relief in sight just yet. Kat knows this game. 

“Come up here,” she instructs Tia, reaching for her hips. 

“I want to watch you.” 

Kat shakes her head even though she’s on the verge of losing it. She looks down at Adena, who doesn’t actually notice until Kat says, “She’s not gonna let me come yet. Are you?” 

Captivating, devious woman. “What do you think?” 

Tia laughs, just a soft rumble from her chest. “You played yourself.” 

“I really did.” She’s smiling, but she’d rather be doing something else right now. Kat grabs at Tia again, impatient. “Come on, get up here.” 

There’s only a second of hesitation. Adena murmurs her agreement from below, and Tia straddles her chest. Kat moans at the scent of Tia’s essence, mouth watering just from the thought of eating out. She adjusts her head and neck once the other woman is in place, makes eye contact, saying just one word, good . She can feel the muscles of Tia’s legs twitch beneath her hands. Tia parts her own labia, drops down, and they both groan at that first hungry swipe of Kat’s tongue. 

She can feel the wetness spreading across her cheeks, Tia rocking above her trying to draw out every single sensation, smearing herself. 

Kat drips. She feels Adena lapping it up but never fully giving in, never pushing Kat too far. The wordless begging, every frustrated sigh, all driving Tia toward her own release as she relishes the vibrations. 

Tia starts whispering baby , eyes clenched tight, so Kat gives her more, every ounce of pleasure she deserves. The sounds of wet, greedy sucking magnified by glistening thighs. Tia cries out, mouth falling open, fingers tightening in Kat’s hair as she rides out the tremors. She grinds and gasps, calling Kat’s name. 

When she opens her eyes, there’s satisfaction in them, none of the shyness of the first time they’d tried this position. Hooded eyes, blinking back to alertness. Satisfied, yeah, but only for now. 

She lifts up so Kat can catch her breath. The first thing she does after swinging her leg over is slide down to the bed next to Kat, careful not to bump Adena. Tia shares in her taste, their noses brushing together, gentle smiles even in the midst of heightened feelings. She idly fingers Kat’s breast, indulging in lazy kisses.  

Now that one of her girls has been taken care of, Kat threads her fingers in the other’s hair, subtly asking for more. 

Adena pushes her tongue into the tight channel some more, then brings her hand up to play, swirling the source of Kat’s wetness. She’s looking up at her desperate eyes, her mouth brushes Kat’s hardened clit. 

Tia purrs against her neck, and she decides then to pinch Kat’s nipple. It sends electricity through her body, down to her pussy where Adena’s fingers and tongue suddenly work together again. Her hips jerk, the current lancing through her, lighting every nerve. 

She moans, begs, “...need you…baby...” 

Shit. Fuck

It’s all so slick, so loud, the thrusting of her fingers. Kat tightens around them. Adena knows that spot inside, where she only has to curl against it over and over...but Kat’s not getting that soon, not tonight. Still, this is its own reward. More than enough. Adena hums around her and Kat arches, head thrown back as her legs tense and shake. 

There. Right there . Adena hits that spot, gives her everything, and it’s all Kat can do to relax her hand on Adena’s head as the waves hit her. 

They let her take her time coming down, panting. Adena starts to come up, kissing Tia’s thigh, next Kat’s stomach. Kat is still prone, trying to catch her breath and sit up. Tia does so first, caressing Adena’s skin with the back of her hand. She leaves small kisses over her torso and neck, and Adena bites her lip, appreciating the slow journey. She scrunches her fingers in short hair, sighing. 

Kat pushes herself up, brings Adena into her lap. They kiss, and Kat can taste not only herself but how much Adena needs this, needs Kat to touch her. She glides her hand up a smooth inner thigh, never breaking eye contact. 

“I’ve got you,” she promises, fingers parting on either side of her stiffness. 

As if to echo her words, Tia kneels behind Kat, kissing her back, making sure she’s supported. She and Adena kiss over Kat’s shoulder, soft and breathy. 

When Kat presses her thumb to her clit, two fingers entering her, Adena drops her head, voice pitched higher as she says how good that feels. Kat pumps her fingers, arm around her waist as she rocks her hips. 

Tia’s hand finds its way between her legs, circling slippery heat, and it’s so damn good. Kat curses, trying not to lose focus on Adena right now. 

Adena’s moans become deeper, drawn out. She picks her head up, searching for Kat’s eyes. She watches for a moment then they close tight again as that tight coiling need inside her finally snaps, broken by curled fingers. Her brow creases, at that thin line between pleasure and pain, until Kat gradually slows her thumb, just keeps her full instead. Adena’s hand covers her own, holding her there through lingering spasms. Kat licks Adena’s throat, feels her swallow and draw in deep breaths. She pecks Kat’s lips, fingers scraping lightly at the back of her neck. 

Tia starts rubbing her clit with more resolve, bearing down hard on the swollen tip. Kat leans back against her weakly. She clutches at Adena, fingers sticky with her, needing another anchor. Adena hums, watching. 

She starts kissing her damp skin, active hands stoking the fire blazing inside her. “You’re so beautiful like this.” Her voice somehow soothing and pure sex.

Breath catches in her lungs. “Please…” 

She reaches behind her with one hand, not even sure what’s she’s asking for. It’s almost too much but she still wants more. Tia presses closer, lips brushing her neck. She needs them to take her over the edge. 

The spot beneath her is soaked and her hips continue to buck. She comes so hard. Teeth clenched, blood racing through her veins.

When she opens her eyes, Kat’s on her back again, breathing still laboured, blinking lazily up at two indescribable women. 

Tia, voice cool and smooth like satin, but her eyes smirk. “This is what you wanted...right?” 

 

They all struggle through lethargy the next morning. Adena ignores her call to prayer. Quickly shuts off the alarm and buries her head under the pillow with a huff, mumbling something about making up for it later. Tia spares not a single thought to what’s happening in the news cycle. She just turns over, burrows deeper into a soft shoulder. And Kat, she holds out as long as possible, treating herself to extra cuddles, lulled by deep, even breathing and this awesome contentment. 

After that false start, breakfast is toast, eggs, and vegetarian sausage. Her girlfriends looking fresh and delightful as they lounge around on this Sunday morning. On the couch, Tia draws her knees up to her chest, one hand mindlessly twisting her hair, the other scrolling on her phone. Adena gets up to put her plate in the sink, and Kat smacks her bottom, grinning unrepentantly at the fiery look she gets in return. She was only reaching for her phone, really, just happened to be good timing.

come to brunch?  

Kat sighs at the group text, less dreamy than those of the last few hours. Even if she wanted to leave this cozy little love nest - and she doesn’t, honestly - she couldn’t. Not without setting off every radar Sutton’s got in her beautiful head. She’ll tell them at some point; Kat just isn’t ready for today to be that day. 

Rain check. Have a mimosa for me.

How was dinner?  

very good, obvi.

Kat starts typing, considering whether to deflect. She erases it and starts again. 

It was, thanks. She sends a kiss emoji. 

Que bom!  Jane, sweet Jane.

She waits for Sutton with bated breath.

see you monday then.

Kat smiles. There. That was easy. She pulls Tia back against her, pressing her lips to the warm skin of her temple. 

On second thought, maybe...too easy? 

“Okay, so I should probably tell you that Sutton knows. Or will know. About last night.” 

Tia gives her a sideways look; Adena appears confused too. They’re so innocent. 

“You don’t have to tell her,” Adena suggests, “if you’re not ready.” 

Tia spins so she’s facing Kat. “I don’t mind either way, it’s not a big deal, but there’s nothing that says you have to right now.” 

“It’s cute that you think that,” Kat laughs. She pats Tia’s leg, tries to come up with a way to explain it. Adena sits in the chair nearby, legs crossed, chin in hand. “How do I put this? Sutton...is like one of those dogs that can tell when its owner has cancer. You don’t know how, but she just knows stuff.” 

“Wait, so we’re the cancer in this scenario?” Tia’s brows lower, mocking.

“That’s what I heard too,” Adena makes her comedic contribution. “Unless you’re going out right now” - she waits for Kat to shake her head no - “then your secret is safe. You won’t see each other until tomorrow, two days later.” 

Kat can admit there have been tells in the past - flushed skin, showing up in a rush and giving off that post-coital vibe she only hastily tried to wash away. A weekend delay should help cover her. 

“You’re not very good at lying, so just talk about other things.” 

One day later,” Kat answers, going back to what Adena said. There’s no way they’re not getting together again today. “We have the entire day to ourselves…” 

There’s no coyness from any of them. They want it. 

“But you’re both right though. Time’s on my side, and I need to use it to my advantage.” Her jaw works silently, trying to reign in her smile. “I’m calling her bluff.” 

Adena’s quietly laughing, and Tia shares a look with her, wide-eyed, head shaking. 

“We don’t know what’s going on right now,” Tia says, waving to indicate all her crazy - Kat’s just thankful to her tank for revealing those toned arms - “but it’s a lot.” 

She starts talking about putting on clothes, which is beyond ridiculous, and Adena stands to get more coffee. So Kat lunges for her, gets a small pinch of her robe to direct her back. She looks down at Kat, takes the offered spot across her lap. Adena frames her face with smooth hands, presses a tender kiss to her lips. She and Tia connect, the pads of their fingers doing the little dance that’s now common. Kat leans over, nibbles Tia’s bottom lip until she opens for her, sighing at the slow contact. 

An entire day, she reminds herself. They can drift in this perfect solitude.

“Didn’t all your dreams come true last night?” Words teasing, Adena keeps brushing her cheek with one hand. Tia’s hand splays across the bare skin of her leg, casually intimate. 

She pulls back to look at them, this sudden delicate love overcoming her desire. 

“Some, yeah. But this” - her arms flex around them, joy taking center stage - “it’s better than any dream.” 

 

 

A Full House: Epilogue

Sutton unlocks the apartment door hoping Jane’s already finished up her post-workout shower and pre-work regimen. There’s nothing wrong with a stride of pride - hell, she coined the term, and did so quite brilliantly at that - but she’d rather start the day fresh. 

This whole lowkey, taking-it-slow thing has been nice, but Sutton’s fairly clear now that she wants to move past it - whether it was her idea in the first place or not. She knows there’s a drawer and closet space with her name on them if she wants. Maybe more than that. She could’ve saved herself a lot of time and subterfuge if--

“Morning.” 

Her heart jolts. Kat sits up in her bed, casually waves at her like there’s nothing out of place at all with her being in Sutton’s bed in her work clothes before 7:00 in the morning. What is she saying? It’s happened plenty of times before. Sutton just wasn’t expecting it this morning

“A little early for you, isn’t it?” 

Kat’s going to need her lint brush for those pants, and Sutton decides to grab it as she attempts to gather her own stuff. Whatever she’s up to, Kat should at least think about these things. You can’t be careless with Alexander McQueen. 

“Late night for you, wasn’t it?” 

Sutton grins, just says, “Uh huh.” 

She strips off her shirt, tosses it in the dry clean pile. She freezes mid-pants zip when Kat makes her next pronouncement. 

“With Alex.” 

So that explains it. Sutton knew something had to be up with her. And her precious young Nancy Drew’s just sitting there, arms and legs crossed, so proud of herself. 

Jane comes out of the bathroom still drying her hair. 

“Yeah, with Alex.” 

The silence is riveting. 

“Oh,” Kat says, pitch rising. “I expected more of a reaction, actually.” She points at Jane, asks, “You already knew?” 

“Since a few days ago.” 

“Oh.” Sutton would laugh if this wasn’t so sad. “Well this is no fun. How come I’m the last to know?” 

“We haven’t really been ready to talk about it. I haven’t, anyway. Just like you were with your throuple. Alex and I are still new and we’re taking baby steps.” Kat uncrosses her arms, nodding. “Plus, unlike you, I see my ex almost every day at work,” she sighs, “so we’ve been trying to keep things under wraps for now. But I was literally just thinking that I’m...really kind of into him?” 

They’re both beaming at her now, and Sutton can relax into that declaration. It feels better than she thought it would saying it out loud. 

Kat hops up from the bed to hug her - pants not too badly wrinkled, thank goodness, and the blouse looks magnificent on her. “This is awesome. We can go on double dates,” she singsongs. 

Sutton hugs her back then swats at her friend to let go. She hands her the lint brush, and focuses on her own options. “Besides, you’re the one skipping out on us to hang with your lady loves.”

“She’s kidding,” Jane says when Kat frowns. “Sutton, tell her you’re kidding.” 

“I am.” Indeed Kat’s been in an enviably long honeymoon phase, but Sutton doesn’t begrudge her a single second of that happiness. Not after what she’s gone through to reach it. “You’re allowed to do your own thing for a weekend. But two in a row? Don’t even think about it. Put that on your calendar.” 

Kat laughs, “Done.”

Sutton’s got her outfit picked out, and she really needs to move it if she wants to get to work on time. 

“All right, my dears, as fun as this jam sesh has been,” she tells them, walking toward the bathroom, “I really gotta--”

Wait a minute. 

She stops, spins on her heels to study Kat. She’s talking to Jane now, but her eyes skim over to Sutton then away again. There’s a little twitch in her jaw, like she’s biting the inside of her cheek. Like she’s the one hiding something.  

Son of a--!

“Kat! Look at me.” 

“I am looking at you. You just screamed my name.” 

“No, look at me,” Sutton demands, inching closer. 

Kat meets her eye to eye, doing her best to remain stoic. No way! She almost doesn’t believe it, but the proof’s right in front of her. Sutton grins. 

“Anybody want to fill me in?” 

“I’ll tell you what’s going on, Jane. Our little amateur sleuth here dragged herself across town at the ass crack of dawn to find out who I’m sleeping with, but the real question is who she slept with...when was it, this past weekend? You wanna answer that one?” 

Kat’s will is slowly losing the battle against her face. 

Jane does a soap opera gasp then shrieks. “Oh my god! You did it?” 

Finally Kat can’t hold out anymore. Her smile is so wide. Her vocal confirmation, however, is still a little understated. A simple, “We did it.” 

Jane engulfs her, nearly sending them tumbling into bed, and Sutton just gives her a high five, grinning. It’s almost unbelievable. 

“You know, there was a time that I doubted my powers of Sapphic perception.” Jane mouths the phrase to Kat, who rolls her eyes. She doesn’t have the right to judge because Sutton was right, thank you very much. “I thought not even you could possibly miss out on one of the easiest scores in history. And yet, nothing. So much game when it comes to men, but petite women who can top you - your weakness? - pfft .” 

Jane says, “There’s a compliment in there somewhere.” 

“No, there isn’t.” She claps her on the back, smug. “But I kept hoping, believed in myself and you. Now here you are, proving once again...never bet against Sutton D. Brady.”

“I don’t know how you do it.” Kat just shakes her head, but that smile is still lingering. 

Sutton will give her credit for holding out as long as she did. She would’ve expected Kat to break before the Monday staff meeting. Maybe her own relationship status update threw her off. But Kat gave herself away in the end. Ah, she still has much to learn. 

“So are you done now?” 

“Oh, not even close,” Sutton laughs. “I’m taking my shower, and Pioneer Woman can whip us up some waffles--” 

“--was one recipe--”

“--then you’re telling us all the juicy details.” 

Kat’s brow arches as she looks at Jane. “Sure you can handle it, tiny Jane?” 

“You’re crazy if you think I’m missing any of this.” 

Kat sits in the armchair looking majestic. As she should, damn it, as she should. Sutton could shed a tear. Her little baby gay is growing up. 

“All right...maybe,” Kat grins, “if you play your cards right.”