"Not that one dear -- still married." The statuesque woman took another sip of the fruity concoction in her hand and scrutinised the next man that promenaded past. "Or him."
"Why not?" Her more diminutive companion raised her own drink: a hollowed-out pineapple adorned with more garnishes and swizzle sticks than one could poke a cocktail umbrella at. "Too vanilla?"
"Gay! Very, very gay."
Veronica Loy snorted. "What on earth is he doing on a cruise like this?"
"The worse kind of gay ..." proclaimed Lwaxana Troi, "... can't admit it to himself."
"Oh dear!" Veronica groaned dramatically. "People. Why can't they choose to be happy?"
"Some people, my dear, just aren't in growth."
"Like my daughter, for instance." Veronica took another swallow. "She still won't divorce that horrid Peter. She has this wonderful man, Will, just waiting for her, and she just refuses to follow her heart."
"Well Deanna is just as bad. She still won't marry her lovely Will, Will Riker." Lwaxana gestured at Veronica with the coconut she held in her hand. "Consider your good fortune -- you at least have grandchildren. I, on the other hand, have no heir to the Fifth House of Betazed."
"Speaking of which, if you have time when we get off this boat, you should meet dear little Grace. She's suddenly blossomed. Alicia's trying to crush it out of her, of course." Veronica shook her head. "How did I get such a repressed daughter?"
"You married someone with Vulcan heritage dear -- that's how."
"She's just like her father."
"So is Deanna."
"They were such good friends, our first husbands. We never would have met if not for them." Veronica found herself more and more subject to sentimental musings these days. "Thank the universe for time travel!"
"If only because we get to commiserate over having the two most infuriating daughters in the Alpha Quadrant." Lwaxana agreed.
The two women bumped their fruit together.
"Maybe we should introduce them to each other." Lwaxana mused.
"Deanna and Alicia."
Veronica came near to spitting out her cocktail. "Alicia? With a woman? Ha!" She shook her head. "I know it's years since you've seen her, Lwaxana, but she's as allergic to breaking the rules as she is to deciding to be happy."
"But from what you've told me, Deanna would be perfect for her. At least she'd have a chance of knowing what's going on in Alicia's head."
Veronica felt another rush of sentimentality. "Sometimes I don't think there's anyone who can truly understand Alicia ..." She shook it off; they were here to have a good time. "What about him?" Veronica gestured towards another specimen.
"Maybe ..." Lwaxana narrowed her midnight black eyes. "No! You don't want to even know what he's into."
Alicia Florrick was not herself. She felt too hot -- perhaps she was incubating a virus. But she also felt an unaccustomed restlessness and inability to concentrate. Her eyes flicked idly over to Cary. They lingered. She snapped back to awareness. Gazing lustfully at her business partner was not something she did!
It was just as well, she told herself (as she walked to the kitchenette for distraction) that she had a Democratic fundraiser to attend with Peter tonight. No doubt the evening would be a tedious exercise in forced laughs at unfunny jokes, supportive pats of her husband’s arm, and more handshakes than she could count. But once she’d played her part, she could give that tilt of her head that let Peter know her intentions and use him to purge her body of tension.
The snack selection at Florrick Agos was nothing like the array of baked goods, salads, and prepared fruit that was provided daily at Lockhart/Gardner -- just a few pre-packaged cookies and some tired-looking apples in a bowl next to the coffee maker. No wonder she had no appetite even though she had skipped lunch and couldn’t remember if she’d even eaten breakfast that morning. She drew a glass of water from the cooler and returned to her desk. Only another hour to kill and she’d be on her way for the evening. She found something mindless to do and began to reply on auto-pilot to unanswered emails.
Alicia felt like she’d made many more circuits of the room than Eli claimed. She skirted the corner where Diane Lockhart stood, talking animatedly with a circle of other female professionals who probably knew each other from EMILY’s List. Diane didn’t glare at her with the same rancour as Will, but Alicia was uncomfortably aware that Peter withdrawing Diane's nomination to the Supreme Court was not something that could be glossed over. She paused to converse with someone whose name she couldn’t remember who had contributed to Peter’s campaign, then kept moving. Another course correction was required when she saw Maddie Hayward ahead. Peter’s rival in the primaries and Alicia’s former "friend" caught her eye and smiled insincerely. Alicia returned it with interest. She’d had enough though: the feelings that had been gnawing at her in the office were still there, and surely she’d spent enough time pressing the flesh to satisfy Eli tonight.
Peter’s height made him easy to spot in the centre of the room and she began to weave in his direction. Someone out of place caught her eye, at once familiar but dressed all wrong amidst the suits, ties, blazers, and pencil skirts that populated the room. It was Kalinda, moving quickly but without appearing to rush, going across the room towards Diane. Alicia felt a little stab of memory: Kalinda showing up with something crucial that would turn a case on its head and secure another win for Alicia. She watched briefly as Diane excused herself and inclined her head to hear whatever it was Kalinda had come to tell her. Well, it wasn’t her business anymore, Kalinda was no longer her investigator, her advocate, her friend. Robyn, Alicia told herself firmly, was a perfectly adequate substitute.
Alicia gained Peter’s side, smiled at him as he caught her eye, and wondered how quickly she could persuade him to leave with her. Desire was asserting itself again and she’d waited long enough for satisfaction. She let her hand rest inside his elbow and squeezed, resisting the urge to roll her eyes at Eli's approving nod.
Her reaction was immediate: she reeled as nausea as intense as anything she’d felt during pregnancy gripped her. She let go of him immediately and stepped backwards.
“Alicia?” Peter’s face was genuine with concern. Behind him Alicia could see similar expressions on the faces of Eli and the people he’d been conversing with. “Are you okay?”
He took a step towards her and she had to actually will herself not to jump away from him. I’m fine, died on her lips. Something was desperately wrong and she needed to leave. Immediately.
“I’m feeling a little off, I’m just going to visit the ladies’ room.” She dissembled.
Peter’s face still looked worried. “Do you want me to walk you there?”
“No!” Alicia calmed the emotion that was rising. “No, I’m sure I’ll be fine. It’s just too hot in here.”
Alicia gripped the porcelain edges of the basin, dry-mouthed. She licked her lips. The nausea was less intense now that there was some physical distance between her and Peter, but it still lingered. She clung feebly to the idea that perhaps her lack of appetite had resulted in low blood sugar and that was responsible for how she was feeling.
The door swinging open seemed deafeningly loud to her ears and she snapped her head around. It was Kalinda.
Kalinda seemed to know she was intruding even though they were in a public restroom and apologised silently, quickly looking away as she strode to the nearest sink to wash her hands. Alicia noticed they, and her leather jacket, were wet -- someone must have spilled a drink on her.
So many months had passed since they had spoken -- there had been no goodbye between them at Lockhart/Gardner. But Kalinda did not seem to harbour any of the venom her former colleagues did. Alicia had sometimes caught glimpses of her at the courthouse, slipping into courtrooms to give something to Will or Diane. There was none of the drama though, no pointed looks. Instead Kalinda kept her eyes averted as she hurriedly offered her discoveries, and then disappeared just as fast.
It was hard to believe that this woman who had been such a feature of her everyday life for much of the last four years was now a stranger. Or was she?
Alicia kept looking as Kalinda began wiping down her jacket with a paper towel. She was staring in truth, then she realised that she no longer felt unwell. Actually she felt fine, better than fine -- the warmth that had been building in her blood for the last few days flared up again.
And suddenly, Alicia knew what was happening to her. The memory of her father placing his hands on her face and imparting knowledge reasserted itself as though it had been yesterday and not over twenty-five years ago. He had "told" her of the blood fever that his forbears had experienced and how, though unlikely, it remained possible that she might undergo it herself one day.
She was experiencing pon farr. And the mate her mind was bonded to was not Peter Florrick, or even Will Gardner -- her mate was Kalinda Sharma.
She froze. Then her hands tightened again on the basin edges as she swayed dangerously. Kalinda saw her movement reflected in the mirror and reacted.
"Alicia!" Kalinda stepped towards her then hesitated. "Alicia, are you okay?"
Alicia struggled, just say yes and get her to leave, but failed to get any words out.
Kalinda watched concerned as Alicia remained silent and shut her eyes tightly. Another step forward. "Are you sick?" Then another.
Alicia could hear each click of Kalinda's heels on the tiled floor, and her blood ... her blood was surging triumphantly through her flesh.
"What's wrong?" One more step closer.
Alicia began to shake, her knuckles turning white as she gripped harder still. Don't come closer ...
Alicia didn't need her sight to know that Kalinda was standing right next to her. Please ... don't touch me.
Kalinda hesitated again, but something was terribly terribly wrong -- she was certain of it. And her words were having no impact. She gently reached forward to place a hand on Alicia's wrist. "Let me help you."
Kalinda's touch was catalytic. Alicia whirled and without conscious thought, her hands found Kalinda's face and she pulled the other woman towards her, claiming Kalinda's mouth with her own.
Kalinda recoiled, startled, but Alicia's hold on her was firm and required more than the force of Kalinda's instinctive reaction to break. Alicia's lips were demanding, permitting no resistance, confident that Kalinda would yield. And Kalinda did, despite the situation making no sense at all. She lost the power to reason and think, she could only respond. Years of caution and boundaries were being swept away by Alicia's kisses. The wounds left by Alicia's secrecy over her departure stopped smarting. There was just Alicia. Alicia bending her head back further, Alicia stepping closer in so their bodies moulded together, Alicia moaning in affirmation when Kalinda's arms wrapped around her neck to cling for support.
When Kalinda had let herself furtively imagine what it would be like to kiss Alicia, her mind had always pictured something different from the myriad of casual encounters she'd experienced. It would be emotional, profound -- special in some indescribable way. Reality surpassed her fantasies tenfold. Not just that Alicia was bold and passionate, but the bond that had always drawn them to each other was palpable, and she was certain Alicia was feeling it too.
She ought to draw back and ask Alicia what she was doing. Why now and why here of all places? But she could only obey the demands that Alicia was making of her and despite her shock at Alicia’s actions, arousal began to uncoil and slither through her body.
It was only the high-pitched sound of glass breaking and a woman blaspheming “Oh my God!” that caused awareness of where they were to flood back and allowed Kalinda to break their kiss.
She looked around, startled, at Maddie Hayward standing just inside the door. Shards of glass and red splashes of wine adorned the floor at her feet.
The protective instinct that was as hard-wired as a reflex in Kalinda became active. Maddie had manipulated Alicia for information, had become Peter's rival, and had ultimately lost her candidacy to him. The First Lady of Illinois getting caught in a lesbian clinch would be powerful ammunition to her.
"You don't look very married right now, Mrs Florrick." Maddie declared with an undertone that Kalinda knew meant she was missing a piece of information.
Alicia looked thunderstruck, unable to form a sentence, let alone an exit strategy. Kalinda saw her opportunity in Alicia's silence.
"Alicia! I'm sorry ..." Kalinda took a step toward her and as she hoped, Alicia moved away instinctually.
"Please, I promise I'll never do that again." Alicia's blank expression substituted well for confusion at an unexpected pass by a woman. "You know I'd never risk our friendship for anything. Please Alicia ... please. Forgive me."
Kalinda could see Maddie remaining stock-still in the doorway, and Alicia hadn't used any of the openings Kalinda had offered to shift the responsibility for initiating what had happened. At least Maddie didn't know her at all and therefore had no idea how unlikely it was for Kalinda to beg.
"I don't know what came over me, Alicia." Kalinda managed a convincing sob in her throat. "I know you don't feel that way about me." She took another step towards her and in Alicia's retreat saw another way to get her out of this situation. "Please, Alicia, we can talk about this. I'm begging you -- don't run away."
Finally Alicia took the hint and bolted for the door, pushing past Maddie. Her panicked departure looked completely convincing.
Alicia couldn't recall how she had gotten home, but when she became aware of her surroundings once more, she found herself sitting on her bed. The memory of Kalinda's body stretching up against hers immediately reasserted itself and her blood hummed with approval.
For brief moments Alicia held the hope that her own hands could resolve her crisis, but after just a few touches she stopped. She could tell that an orgasm would just stoke the flames higher rather than dousing them. Now that she'd kissed Kalinda, plak-tow had begun, and she had eight days to complete pon farr or she would die.
She ran through her father's teaching and considered her options: take her mate; demand the ritual battle of kal-if-fee which might result in death; or attempt to meditate her way to a resolution.
Now she wished she'd taken her father more seriously as a teenager when he'd urged her to learn to control her emotions rather than simply repress them, but she had to try meditation. Even if she'd wanted to take the option of kal-if-fee, who was going to challenge her to a battle to the death for Kalinda? Cary? Lana Delaney? And as for the first option ... Alicia couldn't. She couldn't!
She'd fought hard the last five years to keep the life she wanted -- her terms, her choices. And she'd wasted too much time in the last two-and-a-half years on the confounding problem of Kalinda. Kalinda who had raised her up, then hurled her to earth. And then hadn't been decent enough to stay away: always there, always helping whether Alicia asked for it or not. Pulling at Alicia in a way that dragged her back in, and bringing secrets and danger into Alicia's life that didn't belong there.
She thought back to Minnesota and Kalinda's I miss this. A good working relationship and the odd drink together would never be enough for a Kalinda always hoping for more. She was happier in the year since without her, Alicia told herself firmly. Better to keep her cordial arrangement with Peter and have no friends at all than live with the unpredictable chaos Kalinda seemed destined to inflict on her.
She thought again of her father. Remembered the rituals he'd tried to impress upon her. She had to try.
"One of us should check. She should be up by now."
"You go then." Zach positioned his laptop between him and his sister defensively and took another mouthful of juice to signal that was his final word on the subject.
Grace rolled her eyes and slid off her stool. On reaching her mother's bedroom door she knocked tentatively. Then "Mom?" No response. Grace slowly opened the door, perhaps her mother was just in the shower.
"Mom!" Grace rushed to the bed. "Zach, come here!"
The alarm in Grace's voice brought him running.
"Mom, what's wrong?"
Alicia looked dreadful. Sleep had evaded her entirely. She'd spent the night alternatively drenched in sweat or shivering beneath the covers. And every time she'd tried to strengthen her mind against the plak-tow, memories of Kalinda presented themselves: the peek at her cleavage when Kalinda unbuttoned her blouse to start "working"; the feel of Kalinda’s thigh against hers when they squashed too close together on the bench in court; the look of arousal on Kalinda's face when she slammed her hand in that book; and the soft otherworldly Kalinda, out of her boots, makeup and up-do, who had slept in the next bed that night in Minnesota.
She was exhausted, dark beneath the eyes, agitated and fighting against the urge to respond to her children with a hostile dismissal.
Her mouth opened and shut.
"Are you sick?" Zach's brows knitted together.
"Fever," she finally managed to get out.
Grace was already in her bathroom, drawing a glass of water and two Tylenol. Alicia wanted to slap them out of her daughter's hand but controlled herself. Swallowing was an effort.
"Do you want me to call in to work?" Grace grabbed the phone handset from the nightstand.
Alicia nodded. The teenagers exchanged a look. The lack of resistance meant their mother was really unwell.
"Do you need to go to the doctor?"
Alicia was grimly amused at the thought of how a doctor would approach treating her malady. "No!"
"Mom, if you're staying home I am too." Grace's voice was decisive in a way that was new. Alicia didn't have the control to mount an argument about how she wasn't that sick or Grace shouldn't be missing school.
At least "I just need to sleep," was sufficient to get Grace to leave her alone and just stay within earshot in the living room.
Alicia stopped battling to calm her mind and tried to sleep instead. Memories of Kalinda were replaced by imaginings. She gave in to the onslaught of images and slept fitfully.
She woke feeling just as tired. She had hoped that rest would give her the energy to rally and concentrate her mind. Instead the compulsion was growing worse. She hadn’t prepared for this to happen to her and she didn’t have the mental resources to control it. But it wasn’t a simple choice between giving in and mating with Kalinda or accepting a slow torturous death. In the past it sometimes felt like she could snap her fingers and Kalinda would come running, but this wasn’t just a favour that would cost Kalinda an evening’s worth of her time -- this would upend both their lives permanently.
Kalinda’s voice reminded her about not just letting life happen to her, but Alicia refused to act even now. She shut her eyes and tried to sleep again.
Grace came in bearing a tray. “I thought you should try to eat something. It’s just soup and some toast.”
Her daughter’s thoughtful gesture incensed Alicia, interfering little … And Grace shuffling items on the nightstand to set the tray down angered her further.
Alicia sat up and shoved. Tomato soup bloodied the carpet. “If I wanted something I would have asked!”
Grace jumped as if stung. “Mom?” her voice was trembling.
The sight of her daughter terrified of her destroyed her pretence of coping. She needed help, delaying was only going to send her deeper into rage until she became insane.
Alicia's voice broke as she gave in. “I need Kalinda.”
Grace leapt to open the door. She’d been relieved when Kalinda had answered her phone straight away and by the other woman’s instant concern when she heard Grace’s voice on Alicia’s cell. But the twenty minutes she’d waited since then seemed like hours.
“How is she?”
“I don’t know ... scary.” Grace walked behind Kalinda as she moved towards Alicia’s door. “Do you know what’s wrong with mom?”
“I ran into her last night,” Kalinda omitted certain details. “She didn’t seem like herself then.” She stopped at the door. “Grace, I think I should go in alone.” Kalinda was certain that Alicia’s actions in the restroom were part of this and she couldn’t see discussing that in front of Grace. Fortunately the frightened Grace looked relieved to have permission to retreat to her corner of the apartment.
Kalinda knocked. “Alicia. It’s me. Can I come in?”
There was no answer other than a sobbing moan. Alarmed, Kalinda braced herself as she opened the door.
Alicia was curled on her side, still sweating, and with both hands clenched in the bedcovers. Seeing Kalinda, she sat up and scurried backwards to the head of the bed. "Don't come closer."
"Okay ..." Alicia looked like a frightened animal. Kalinda's instinct was to try to prevent making her feeling caged in. She spoke slowly and with a calm she didn’t feel. "Alicia, I'm going to sit in the chair in the corner. I'll leave the door open."
"No, shut the door!" It might be an illusion of privacy, but Alicia didn't want to think of Grace overhearing.
Kalinda shut the door carefully and made her way over to the chair. "What can I do?"
Alicia let out a breath. Kalinda's presence was provoking contradictory responses in her. Having her mate in the same room was filling her with increasing lust, but there was enormous mental relief that Kalinda had come when asked -- simultaneously she felt calmer than she had since kissing Kalinda the previous night.
"This is hard to explain."
"You won't believe me." Alicia tried to think how on earth she would be able to convince Kalinda.
"Why would you think that?"
"I'm not ... Kalinda, I know this will be hard to believe. My father was not fully human." Years of preparing argument for court failed. Alicia's words hung stagnant in the air.
Kalinda shook her head. "Not human how?" Her brows knit. "I don't understand."
"He was part alien." Kalinda was looking at her with escalating consternation. "His grandmother was from another planet." Alicia felt despairing, she could see that Kalinda wasn't getting on board.
"Look Alicia," Kalinda proceeded carefully. "I believe you believe what you're telling me." Alicia's hopes plummeted. "But it's pretty incredible. I mean, reverse the situation. Wouldn't you think I was having a psychotic break and take me to a hospital?" Kalinda ignored the lingering suspicion that if she'd been the one asking for help Alicia might not have come.
Alicia drooped, if Kalinda didn't believe her about her heritage, she would find pon farr even more incredible.
"Alicia." Kalinda's voice was warm and gentle. "Alicia, please, help me believe you. Is there some way you can prove any of this?"
Alicia thought -- an elaborate verbal explanation of Vulcans and their interest in other civilisations was likely to make Kalinda even more convinced that she was in the clutch of an elaborate delusion. Mating rituals, pointed ears, copper-based blood, nerve pinches, and mind melds ... Oh!
Alicia had never successfully initiated a meld. She and Owen used to play at it as children before their father warned them of the potential risks, but even brother and sister couldn't reach each other that way. The only person she'd ever shared that connection with was her father. But if Kalinda was her bonded mate, perhaps it was possible.
"I can try to show you." Alicia moved gingerly across the bed. "It might not work," she qualified, "And I'll need to touch your face."
"All right." Kalinda couldn't see how a touch was likely to prove anything, but she felt like Alicia deserved a chance and she didn't perceive any danger.
Alicia sat on the footstool in front of her, Kalinda leant forward tentatively. The fingertips of Alicia's left hand landed on her temple and cheekbone. Memory flashed through her: Kalinda perched on this chair three years ago, talking on her BlackBerry to Cary. Alicia summoned her concentration, she shut her eyes. Another memory: the last time she melded with her father the day before his illness took him from her, him telling her he loved her one last time. She opened her eyes -- Kalinda was still, serious and beautiful in front of her. Alicia regained her focus.
"My mind to your mind." Alicia spoke the ritual words and pushed forward mentally.
Kalinda gasped in shock and tried to withdraw her thoughts from Alicia's.
"No, it's okay. I won't hurt you." Alicia could feel how jagged and unpracticed this meld was compared to the gentle touch of her father's mind.
"Alicia, what is this?" Kalinda's fear was obvious -- she didn't have the ability to hide her emotions when Alicia was reading her thoughts.
"I'm not going to look at anything, I'm just going to show you." Alicia could imagine that for someone as private as Kalinda this must feel like a violation.
Kalinda tried to steady herself mentally and put away her panic. It didn't hurt, but having someone else literally inside her head felt foreign and terrifying -- uncomfortable was an understatement.
Alicia collected together the memories from her father and tried to show them to Kalinda in small logical pieces. Her childhood, her father's revelation, his logical nature and how that drove her parents apart, how that heritage was responsible for her emotional restraint, and then ... pon farr.
The shock she felt from Kalinda threw off her concentration and she lost the ability to maintain their connection and convey everything she'd intended. The abrupt return to her own singular consciousness was jarring. From the way Kalinda cradled her head in her hands and panted, it must have been so for her as well.
"It's not supposed to end like that. I've never been the one controlling it before, sorry." Alicia put some distance between Kalinda's chair and her stool. The feel of Kalinda's skin under her fingers was a potent reminder of her predicament.
"Need a moment." Kalinda was still bent over. Eventually she sat up again.
"I should have warned you what I was going to do."
Kalinda shook away Alicia's concern, but her voice was unsteady. "So, that's it? You need to have sex or you'll die?"
"Not exactly. It needs to be with you, I need to mate with you."
On the surface it sounded like a fantasy come to life: Alicia needing her for sex. But from the partial fragments she'd received before their minds broke apart it had appeared more complicated than that.
"Mate -- that implies more than sex."
"So, it's more than a one-time thing?"
"In most cases," Alicia hesitated. "The couple would become bonded. Not always though."
"But mate -- that sounds like procreation."
"How is that possible for two women?"
"It isn't, but it has happened. No one can explain it. That's the point of the fever: to conceive children."
"But you already have children, why would you be driven to have more?"
Alicia couldn't answer that. Not unless the answer was that she didn't have children with Kalinda.
Kalinda shook her head. She didn't like mess. She liked things knowable and predictable. But then, the entire course of her relationship with Alicia had been anything but.
"It doesn't matter anyway. I'm on birth control. But does that mean it won't work? I mean, will it count? If we have sex, will you be okay afterwards?"
"I'm not sure." The intricacies and permutations of pon farr were so shrouded in secrecy even amongst Vulcans, Alicia didn't know the answer. She then realised that Kalinda was, in effect, agreeing to go through with it. "You're going to help me." She looked at Kalinda, and for the first time ever, realised just how much she'd undervalued the woman in front of her.
Just like that. No questioning of the implications for herself, just a straightforward decision to help.
"Kalinda, thank you." The words seemed desperately inadequate.
Kalinda tried a bit of levity. "What, you think I'd rather watch you die than do you?"
"It's a lot more than that."
"I know." And again, no hesitation, just an Alicia who needed help and a Kalinda who could provide it.
Alicia took Kalinda's hand. Her small fingers felt cool, soft and like her salvation. She shut her eyes and took a few breaths, feeling an odd sort of serenity in the moment.
"What happens now? Is there a ritual you need to prepare?"
"No, just privacy and some things you should know."
"Kalinda, I won't be myself." The idea of her first sexual encounter with a woman was far less frightening than the loss of control she knew she would experience. "When the fever takes hold of me ... there won't be any restraint."
Kalinda nodded encouragement for Alicia to continue.
"Vulcans are very strong, they used to be savage. I'll probably hurt you ... physically, I mean."
"Do you mean life-threatening or embarrassing trip to the E.R.?"
"Kalinda, I'm serious. It won't just be rough sex."
Kalinda wasn't sure how to tell Alicia that her past experiences meant she was probably better able to bear what Alicia might do than most. "We'll manage."
"I don't want to do things to you that hurt."
"If you do, it will be okay." Kalinda stroked her thumb over Alicia's fingers. She could see just this simple gesture had an immediate effect on Alicia's control and let their hands fall apart. "Privacy. You need to talk to Grace."
"Oh!" Alicia had forgotten about the realities of her life outside the bedroom door. "Can you?"
"I think you should. She's frightened by what happened." Kalinda's eyes strayed over to the soup stain and the broken crockery. "Tell her you're sick, you're stressed about a big case coming up and that's why you snapped. And that she and Zach need to go to Highland Park and I'll stay and look after you and help you with work."
"She knows you didn't leave Lockhart/Gardner."
"Tell her I'm defecting." Kalinda's lips quirked. Maybe that was even the truth.
Kalinda shut the door behind Grace and returned to Alicia’s bedroom doorway. “She’s gone.”
Alicia felt herself beginning to tremble. There was no reason to hold back now. Kalinda was here and they were alone. "Can I have a few moments?"
"Sure." Kalinda disappeared from view. Alicia heard her boots click across the hallway and into the living room.
Alicia slid off her bed and looked at herself in the mirror above the dressing table. She looked strung out. She had an absurd impulse to shower and make herself nice for Kalinda, or perhaps she was stalling. She kept looking at her reflection. Everything was going to change, into what she wasn't sure. But she was certain that she wouldn’t wake tomorrow with four years of being the First Lady of Illinois in front of her. There were going to be difficulties as a result. She would have to tell Peter, tell the kids, it would inevitably become public. But she couldn’t think through all those permutations now. She looked hard at herself one final time. It seemed as though the life she’d built was balanced on a knife point. Was this the real her, or would the woman she saw in the mirror tomorrow be her true self?
She crossed the hallway and found Kalinda looking at her from the sofa. “Ready?”
Alicia nodded, and watched Kalinda rise and walk towards her. Each fluid, unhesitating step spoke to Alicia of Kalinda’s courage.
“Whatever you need from me, just take it. If we need to talk about it afterwards, we will.” Kalinda stood before her, acquiescent.
“Kalinda.” Alicia spoke her mate’s name and placed her hands along each side of Kalinda’s jaw. There was no slow, gentle build. Her mouth demanded that Kalinda’s open to her and their joining began.
The experience as she stopped resisting and instead let the fever take hold of her was like nothing Alicia had ever experienced. One instant she would be blinded by animal passion that saw her literally tearing at Kalinda's clothes as she pushed her towards the bedroom, and the next had her marvelling at the intensity of the connection she was feeling.
Wherever impulse told her to put her mouth and hands she did. She allowed her teeth to pull at Kalinda’s flesh. And she ignored the sharp gasps and stifled cries that answered some of her actions.
Kalinda schooled herself to stay relaxed. Alicia’s warning had been real. She could feel how futile it would be to try to gentle Alicia’s touches. Alicia’s hidden strength was revealed by hands that gripped hard enough to bruise. Whatever normally restrained Alicia was absent and the result was an experience that was both frightening and deeply erotic.
Alicia rose above her on the bed, as naked as she was. Kalinda felt Alicia’s knee push her legs apart and then her hand was there, poised and ready to take her. Green eyes bored into brown ones.. Alicia stopped. Her hand ran up Kalinda's body to rest on her face.
“Kalinda.” Alicia’s fingertips pressed into her skin. “Please, I want all of you.” And she did. She didn’t want this to be purely physical. She’d always known their potential together was greater than that even if she'd had trouble admitting it to herself.
Kalinda nodded shakily -- she knew what Alicia would do. And she wanted it to happen too, but she felt more vulnerable than she’d ever felt in her life. She nodded again and tried to open her mind to Alicia’s intrusion.
“My thoughts to your thoughts.”
It was easier the second time; Alicia could read Kalinda clearly and their connection was secure and couldn’t be accidentally broken. She could feel Kalinda’s fear -- fear that if Alicia really knew her, she would reject her. Alicia knew what Kalinda felt was legitimate, and she couldn’t give a reassurance that the emotions that had been mangled by Kalinda’s lie and her own anger would be made whole again.
Alicia began to turn the pages of Kalinda’s memories like a photo album. She saw them meet and felt Kalinda’s indifference bordering on contempt and how that quickly became surprise, grudging respect and an interest that drew the investigator out of her usual taciturnity. Alicia had rewritten their relationship in her head after finding out, friendship out of guilt. There was no guilt, Kalinda did just like her. She wasn’t used to liking people and when the moment came that Alicia questioned her about Peter, she wasn’t prepared for the fact that she minded terribly and chose in that instant to lie in order to keep Alicia’s friendship. But Alicia listened to her words again, not only it’s not true, but it’s not pertinent. Alicia looked hard at those words and saw that there at least, Kalinda was being truthful. Alicia had imagined Kalinda and Peter through her own eyes and imagined Kalinda acting on attraction, the two of them being drawn to each other. Instead there was none of that on Kalinda’s side, just an opportunity to get Peter to do something she desperately wanted in order to escape her life. Kalinda’s blameless Peter had told her and Alicia had mocked him. She could see the pages of memory that lay behind Kalinda’s act of betrayal and knew that if she looked through them she would know the reason. She paused, uncertain if she wanted to know.
Kalinda sobbed as she felt Alicia decide not to find out what lay buried in her past. She couldn’t help but take it as a rejection. Alicia felt everything that Kalinda was feeling. She felt Kalinda’s heart break yet again. And then although that wasn’t the answer she’d been searching for in Kalinda’s mind she knew and could no longer deny it: Kalinda loved her.
I do. Alicia, for so long, that’s why …
Then Alicia couldn’t retreat without knowing. She watched Kalinda’s guilt over her lie and her rationalisation that there was no way to tell the truth without causing Alicia pain, that easing her conscience by confession would be an indulgence that would destroy the one person she truly cared about, and her resolution to accept the burden of her actions without complaint. Then page after page of Kalinda acting for Alicia, trying to discern her wishes, defend her, protect her, lighten her load wherever possible.
How happy Kalinda was loving her, feeling whole and unbroken for the first time, as though those pages from her past could no longer corrupt her life with their pollution. Alicia still shied away from looking at them.
Instead she continued to watch Kalinda love her. How terrified she was by Blake threatening to take away the only thing that mattered, but it happened anyway and shattered her completely. How despite that, she made sure Will would be there for Alicia after Kalinda was banished. And then even though Alicia showed nothing but coldness to Kalinda, her former friend never stopped longing for her, never missed an opportunity to act if it would benefit Alicia. Grace she knew about, but Dana Lodge’s attempt to blackmail Kalinda with Alicia’s disbarment was new to her. Nor did she know about Kalinda investigating Indira Starr for Eli. That because Alicia supported Peter, Kalinda also worked in his interest, including keeping quiet about the voting fraud in the election. Alicia started at that. She knew if she combed through Kalinda’s memories there would be more instances of Peter’s corruption to be found. She pushed them aside and kept delving into Kalinda.
She felt the joy that bloomed through Kalinda at every stage of renewal of their friendship change to a sickening twist of horror in Kalinda when she spoke the words F&E Construction. She watched Kalinda prepare to flee, not because she feared for her life, but because she feared being drawn back into something so damaging, escaping it once had taken every resource she had. But Kalinda hadn't fled. She watched Kalinda commit Alicia sitting at her desk to memory before saying good-bye, and then on realising that Alicia would be in danger, resolve to stay and be found rather than risk harm to her beloved.
She felt Kalinda’s shame as Alicia watched her debasement at the hands of Nick as she fell back into their co-dependent dysfunction, and how the thing that pulled her out and allowed her to push him out of her life forever was the threat to Alicia. Alicia gasped then-- Kalinda would do literally anything for her.
Kalinda loved her unconditionally, expecting nothing, while wanting everything.
Alicia knew then that she was the one who didn’t deserve Kalinda. And she would never deserve her if she was too cowardly to know her. She turned the first page …
It sickened her. Each new sheet illustrated a fresh degradation, humiliation, or wound. And the stack of them ran back into Kalinda’s past to nearly her first memories of childhood. As she looked at each memory in turn Alicia realised that by doing so she was forcing Kalinda to relive them. Her fingers lightened their pressure on Kalinda’s face.
No, I want you to know me. Alicia's fingers pressed back in. You’re the only one I could ever let see.
Alicia kept turning the pages until they were finished. The Kalinda she now knew seemed at once the strongest and most fragile person possible. Kalinda’s mind held still against hers, as though awaiting judgement.
I like the person you’ve become.
She felt Kalinda’s relief roll through her and convert to joy. Her hand fell away from Kalinda’s face and they looked at each other, knowing each was seeing the person who would truly complete her.
For the first time since her ordeal had begun Alicia saw pon farr as a blessing. Desire built up rapidly in her yet again as they kissed. And when Alicia's hands took possession of her mate's body, she took Kalinda's soul as well.
Night had fallen as they slept. The only illumination in Alicia's bedroom came from the lights of the city beyond her venetian blinds. Kalinda winced as she stirred in Alicia's arms; the few hours she'd been sleeping were enough for her to stiffen and the pain of her injuries to assert itself. Alicia's arms clasped her possessively but she managed to edge her way out of them slowly without waking her companion despite her movements being jerky with pain.
Enough light was falling across Alicia's face for Kalinda to see that she still slept soundly. Who knew how much the days leading up to the climax of the fever had exhausted her?
Kalinda made her way to Alicia's bathroom and carefully shut the door before turning on the light. What she saw in the mirror was confounding. No amount of mental preparation to convince herself that she could handle anything Alicia was likely to throw at her physically was adequate to actually seeing the result.
Kalinda was not a stranger to either rough sex or violence. Back by another name, in another lifetime, things had been done to her body against her will. She did not think of herself as naive about what people could and did do to each other out of both love and hate. It was still hard to believe that she had received this array of scratches, bruises, and bites from Alicia Florrick.
She stopped herself from continuing to catalogue the marks on her body. She'd expected this, she could cope. She rummaged through Alicia's bathroom cabinet and swallowed some Advil before turning the taps in Alicia's shower up as hot as her skin could bear.
She stood there enjoying the warmth that was beginning to silence her body's protests until the noise of pain grew quiet enough that she could recollect her thoughts and remember. Remember how it felt when Alicia pushed into the depths her mind and saw all her secrets and accepted her anyway. And how, savage as this mating had been, it had been one of soul against soul without the formidable barriers both women usually erected against the outside world. It had been a gift that had transported both of them to a place they probably would never have reached otherwise.
After drying herself off, she switched out the light before reentering Alicia's bedroom, standing in the doorway until her eyes adjusted again to low-level glow from beyond the windows. Then she moved to either side of Alicia's bed pulling closed each set of curtains in turn. Now it was truly dark, just a small bleed of light around each window, and the glow of the power indicators on the few electronic devices in the room.
She climbed carefully back into bed and resumed her place alongside Alicia's body, feeling her stir as expected.
"Kalinda." Alicia's voice was only just louder than a whisper.
Alicia opened her eyes. "It's dark."
"Yes." Kalinda ran her fingers down the side of Alicia's face, processing how different it was to map those features she knew so well by sight, only through touch. "This time I want to just feel."
Kalinda laid her body on top of Alicia's and found her lips in the dark for a kiss that started as the gentlest of touches but then built and built until both women rediscovered the connection that had bound them together so forcefully a few hours earlier, but this time with mutual desire rather than compulsion.
Kalinda lifted herself up from Alicia's mouth, breasts brushing against Alicia's. Alicia's hands encircled her waist and then began to run from the small of Kalinda's back up either side of her spine. The graceful movement halting as her sense of touch found the welts her fingernails had raised on Kalinda's skin.
"Kalinda ... " The reminder that she'd acted in ways so contrary to what Alicia had always believed was her nature, doused the embers that Kalinda was rekindling.
"Alicia," Kalinda's voice was urgent. "What happened was part of you, but it was only one part."
"I did this to you."
"We both knew this would happen Alicia." Kalinda leant down again to Alicia's mouth briefly. "Now show me what the rest of you is like. Let me feel what it's like when we make love."
It wasn't a phrase that had ever left Kalinda's lips before. Too sentimental for Kalinda Sharma, but she knew no better way to express what she felt.
Kalinda rolled to the side taking Alicia with her, facing each other as equals. And they began: legs entwining, sex against sex with a gentle sensuality that was unhurried and an antidote to the brutality of their first time. And later when Alicia's body was unable to resist tumbling over the precipice that Kalinda's mouth had brought her to, the pleasured succession of noises that issued from her throat were the most beautiful music Kalinda had ever heard.
Kalinda had bought it as a joke. She'd even smuggled a bottle of tequila into Alicia's bathroom the night before and hidden it under the vanity. Her plan had been to walk into the bedroom, a negative test stick in one hand, booze in the other, and propose shots to celebrate.
Instead she looked at two lines inside the window. The key next to it helpfully confirmed two lines meant "pregnant". But it's a faint line she told herself, as if being a little bit pregnant made a difference. Then she realised that she was reading the test upside down: the control line was faint, the one that measured her hCG was dark and unequivocal.
Kalinda sank onto the lid of the toilet. Despite Alicia's warnings from folklore that it had occasionally happened, intellectually Kalinda had discounted the possibility. Although the fact that she had avoided alcohol for the last two weeks suggested that some part of her thought otherwise.
Her awareness of time passing was lost in the haze of new implications for her life -- for their life. Without either of them discussing it, Kalinda had effectively moved into Alicia's apartment, sleeping every night with her since Alicia's fever. But this -- a baby -- was a level she'd never imagined taking things to.
She must have been gone from bed for a long time because Alicia had never interrupted her in the bathroom before, but this morning she peered cautiously in the doorway.
Kalinda could only mutely hold out the stick to Alicia.
Alicia took it. "Kalinda ..." Even though she had been the one to warn Kalinda, she couldn't believe it either. Alicia stumbled headfirst into a cliche, "Whatever you want to do, I'll ... "
"Alicia don't." Kalinda couldn't tell if she was feeling thrilled, horrified or both. Mostly she was aware of a growing feeling of nausea. Surely it was too soon for morning sickness!
"Look, it's just a test from a drug store. Who even knows if it's right?"
Alicia's words were reassuring, but Kalinda knew full well they were false and that home pregnancy tests were reliable. Nevertheless she replied, "Sure, nothing to panic about."
Alicia headed for her closet and began to pull on jeans and a sweater. "I'm going to get another brand."
Kalinda watched her depart, hair untidy and with no makeup. She wondered what the drug store clerk would make of the spectacle of a stressed-out woman in her forties buying a pregnancy test. Assume it was for a teenage daughter?
Alicia was back before Kalinda had enough time to do more than mechanically drink glasses of water and read the product insert that had come in the test box. The idea of having a child -- Alicia's child -- had Kalinda at a loss for what to feel.
Three different branded boxes clattered out of the paper bag in Alicia's hands onto the vanity.
Kalinda, a newly-minted expert in home pregnancy tests after her reading of the last ten minutes, warned, "We might get a false negative. It's supposed to be first morning urine."
Alicia looked flustered and tucked her hair behind one ear. "Um, well ... let's try another one anyway." Despite being in possession of an unplanned pregnancy twice before, experience wasn't smoothing her path, and she'd definitely never expected to be the father.
Kalinda looked incredulously at Alicia hovering over her. "There's no way I can do this with you in the room Alicia."
"Oh! Right." Alicia tried to hand Kalinda the box, dropping it in the process. "Sorry." Their heads nearly hit as they both leant down. "Sorry."
Kalinda set the box on her lap, and took Alicia's hands in hers. "It's going to be okay." Kalinda sounded convincing because she believed it. She'd known when she'd given herself to Alicia to solve the crisis of Pon Farr that she was committed -- that this was her one and only chance to make them a possibility and that too much was at stake for her to admit the possibility of them failing.
Despite Alicia leaving the room, Kalinda still felt under so much pressure she considered turning on a tap. But finally she mastered her bladder and set the stick down on the vanity. She didn't have to wait three minutes to see the second line appear, just as vivid as the first time.
She found Alicia in the kitchen. "It's for real."
Alicia swallowed and looked longingly at a bottle of red on the counter. "I want a glass of wine, but I guess I should quit for solidarity's sake."
"God Alicia, have your wine." Kalinda was adamant, nine in the morning be damned. "There's no way we'll survive the next eight months with you unmedicated."
"Alicia, Kalinda. Two of my favourite people. Have a seat." Elsbeth walked around the desk. "Oh! Not that one!"
Kalinda halted her downward motion.
"The one over there is ... safer."
Kalinda sat. Carefully.
Alicia watched as Elsbeth settled herself and then reached for a pen, upsetting several tchotchkes in the process. It was disconcerting to consult Elsbeth in an office ... with carpet, walls, an actual desk. She half-expected ceiling tiles to come crashing down. Something ...
"What can I do for ..." Elsbeth paused, pursed her lips. "Wait, don't you two work for different firms now? Which of you is the client?"
"I am." Alicia looked over at Kalinda. "It's a personal matter."
"Okay!" replied Elsbeth cheerfully.
"I need a divorce." Alicia paused briefly. "Quickly."
"Wow! How exciting." Elsbeth turned to Kalinda. "Marriage breakdowns, so dramatic. I like that jacket -- leather, so buttery." Elsbeth snapped her head back to Alicia. "So a divorce. And in a hurry. Any particular reason?" She began to twist a lock of her too-red hair around her pen. "Not that it's my business, but it seems like you've had reason to cut him loose for a while."
Alicia drew a breath -- she was going to need to get accustomed to these questions. She took Kalinda's hand. "We're having a baby."
"Really?! I miss my kids being babies! Gosh they used to do the darndest things ... funnier than all those cats on YouTube."
"Yes, well ... we'd like to have the matter resolved in time for us to get married before the baby's born." Despite the fact that this was something they had decided together, the thought of starting over again (new life, new marriage, new child) with Kalinda still felt unreal much of the time.
"Awww, so sweet. That's next summer when gay marriage comes in, right? Two June brides -- so festive!" Elsbeth scratched something illegible on her legal pad. "So, who's the mommy? I mean of course you'll both be mommies ... You know I read a study somewhere about kids with two moms being better adjusted ..."
"Kalinda is pregnant." Alicia clarified, wondering if that would redirect Elsbeth's thoughts.
"So why do you need me? Sounds pretty straightforward. You can claim Peter's infidelity, no need to wait out a two-year separation then."
"It's more that we want it dealt with ... discreetly." Kalinda put it succinctly.
"I suppose governor's wife impregnates lesbian lover does make a juicy headline." Elsbeth joked. Then she saw the faces opposite her. "Wait, is that what happened?"
"We don't really know how it happened." Alicia told part of the truth.
"But there's not some guy that could be the father? Sorry, Kalinda -- kinda calling you slutty there."
Alicia wasn't sure why she was giving information on this subject. The circumstances of the conception weren't relevant to what they needed Elsbeth for. "No, there isn't a guy."
Elsbeth looked at Alicia then. Looked hard. "Did you go through pon farr?"
The surprise on Alicia's face was her answer.
"You’re one-eigth Vulcan, after all. It can happen. "
Kalinda lost all ability to retain her usual neutral expression, but then it wasn't every day that one found oneself apparently participating in an extra-terrestrial conspiracy.
"Not that it matters ..." Elsbeth declared. "Wow! I'm so glad you came through it okay!" She winked at Kalinda. "Must have been one hell of an experience for you! One of my friends in the Continuum told me this story he heard in a bar once and ..."
Alicia's brain ran rapidly through the lore her father had vested in her. "You're Q?"
"Well, technically I'm not allowed to discuss that under the terms of my study visa here on Earth." Elsbeth gestured grandly to the air and presumably the Continuum's version of the NSA. "Hey though, one good thing, since we're all friends ... that divorce won't be a problem."
Kalinda blinked, she was clearly missing something. "It won't?"
"Well I can't do this for human clients obviously -- causes questions, you know?" Elsbeth opened a folder on her desk. "So, Alicia, here areyour divorce papers all signed and enacted. And Peter remembers granting the divorce to you. And the court was fine with it. And the media didn't notice it going through." She paused dramatically, then winked. "Maddie Hayward doesn't remember walking in on you two in the ladies room either." Elsbeth pushed the documentation across the desk to Alicia. "I hope you invite me to the wedding!" she exclaimed in conclusion.
"Explain to me what just happened." Kalinda requested in bewilderment as they left the Tascioni offices and walked toward the elevator.
Alicia shrugged; she'd gone to Elsbeth expecting a novel solution to their delicate problem. Being omnipotent certainly explained a few things about Elsbeth's success as a lawyer.
"Alicia! Kalinda! Wait!" Elsbeth was running towards them. On reaching them she looked around in an exaggerated cloak-and-dagger manner to see if anyone could overhear them. "I know a good doctor."
"Oh, that would be helpful. The obstetrician that delivered Zach and Grace has retired." Alicia got out her phone to enter contact details.
"This one's great. She's so nice. You should see her hair! I wish I had hair like hers ..." Elsbeth got out her phone too. "Dr Crusher's her name, but everyone calls her Beverly. She's, uh, a good choice for your situation."
Kalinda raised her eyebrows. "What, same-sex couple friendly?"
"Oh yes, definitely! But no, just used to dealing with mixed species pregnancies."
Kalinda sometimes felt like she saw conspiracies everywhere, but apparently not enough. "Another alien?"
"Oh no -- silly!" Elsbeth punched Kalinda lightly on the arm. "Beverly's as human as you are. But she's from the future. She's here doing research on ancient healthcare systems. But her medical knowledge is totally up to date!" Elsbeth scrolled through her contact details and hit the share button. "There!" Then she frowned. "Well, I think I sent it ..."
"Feeling more comfortable now?" There was something about Dr Crusher that exuded friendly reassurance. Probably old-fashioned bedside manner decided Kalinda as she climbed back onto the examining table. Everything at the moment seemed to be about her bladder, and holding all that water in for an hour had been testing.
"Sometimes I don't know why we put you through that in the early weeks. Even when you can see via the abdomen, transvaginal is much clearer."
Kalinda took the sheet she was being offered and draped it over herself, then tried to remove her underwear in as dignified a fashion as she could manage. She watched Beverly roll a condom over the long thin probe and squeeze on lubricant. No wonder they called it dildo-cam.
Beverly smiled apologetically as her blue eyes met Kalinda's. "It's usually more comfortable if you insert it yourself and then I'll guide it from there."
Kalinda was still finding this whole thing where people expected access to her body, privacy be damned, invasive. And trust me -- it gets worse, Alicia had told her. But Beverly was gentle and had welcomed the two women into the room without missing a beat.
Kalinda did as instructed, then found Alicia's eyes -- long fingers held her smaller ones and squeezed. She was only just beginning to be able to admit to herself how much this mattered. The unclear images from Beverly's attempt to scan her abdominally had thrown her. Their miracle was a one-shot deal. Even Alicia, who was trying to affect the attitude of someone who'd been through the whole pregnancy thing before, had agreed to a dating scan. They were both unable to wait-and-see for later ultrasounds even though there was no indication anything was wrong.
Beverly guided the wand with one hand and tapped controls with the other. "Congratulations. You have your dates right."
Alicia smothered a laugh. Given they had no idea when the first day of Kalinda's last period should have been, they'd just added two weeks to the date of "the night" and hoped it was close.
"Seven weeks and one day according to measurement." Beverly tapped numbers on her keyboard. "One foetus, safely in the uterus." Beverly zoomed in. "And look, that point flashing on and off is the heart. 110 beats per minute, just right for the age."
Kalinda swallowed with relief: not an ectopic, no blighted ovum that would never progress. What should have been biologically impossible was delightfully banal in its normalcy.
"And now that we've done the expected stuff to enter on your file here, just a few quick checks that are off-the-record." Beverly pulled a device out of her pocket, it looked like an early generation bulky cellphone. "Human/Vulcan pregnancies are surprisingly straightforward despite their different physiology, but it's always worth checking the genetics."
She extracted a small cylindrical probe and began to wave it above Kalinda's abdomen. "I'd advise you to stay away from chromosome testing like amniocentesis and CVS. It's invasive, carries a risk of miscarriage, and ..." Beverly paused to grin, "... your baby will cause great confusion in the lab!"
She began to press buttons on her device and scrutinise the electronic display. She looked up at both women and smiled. "And you don't need it anyway. Everything looks fine."
Alicia's hand tightened again on hers and the look of pure happiness Kalinda saw when she turned to face her was something that would become etched in her memory.
Kalinda was still floating in along in an abstraction of future imaginings when they got back to Alicia's apartment.
"I have something for you." Alicia's words tethered her back to reality. Something about Alicia's face told Kalinda that whatever was in the small parcel was no generic maternity present.
Kalinda sat on Alicia's bed (their bed) and felt the dip of the mattress as Alicia sat next to her, hip touching hip. She undid the paper gently and held up a tiny white jumpsuit with matching hat. It certainly wasn't new and the style of the print of yellow ducklings on it seemed dated to Kalinda's eyes.
"It's the outfit Zach and Grace both wore home from hospital." Alicia explained.
Kalinda bit her lip.
"If you'd like ..." Alicia wasn't sure how to word it. "I'd love it if our baby wears it too." She then continued hastily, "But if you want to pick out your own, I wouldn't want to take that away from you."
Kalinda stilled her with a hand on her lips. "No, it's perfect." More perfect than Kalinda could ever have imagined.
Everything that night felt different. Not that it was more tender or loving or passionate, but the knowledge that their offspring was viable, was growing ... had given their future together a shape and direction even more than Alicia's divorce papers had.
Afterwards, Alicia's green eyes were tender as they looked into Kalinda's liquid brown. "Do you care if it's a girl or a boy?"
"We're having a girl." Kalinda stated factually.
Alicia looked amused by Kalinda's certainty. "I see!"
"No really. Alicia, where would the baby get a Y chromosome from? We're having a girl."
"Oh! Well ..." Alicia wondered, given that their baby should never have been possible in the first place, whether Kalinda's genetic logic applied. "In that case, it gives us extra time to argue about names."
Kalinda snickered, then grew serious. "If there's a name from your father's family we could say it was Indian and probably get away with it."
"I think I could like that."
They readjusted in each other's arms, settling face to face. She couldn't actually feel it, but Kalinda could imagine the life growing inside her. As though she could discern the flutter of the little mass of cells that already had a heart blinking off/on, off/on, off/on.
She pulled even closer, pressing her abdomen against Alicia's. It felt almost as if this new entity, half her/half Alicia, was being nurtured between the bodies of both her mothers. Kalinda buried her face in Alicia's neck as she felt her eyes begin to sting. When Alicia rubbed her cheek soothingly against Kalinda's temple there was moisture there too, and she knew that Alicia was also feeling it: knowing, accepting, and belonging. Those things that hadn't been truly present Alicia's in life for so many years, and had never been part of Kalinda's.
Alicia's hand traced Kalinda's face, her fingertips rested questioningly.
"Yes. I want you to."
Alicia didn't even need to say the ritual words. Her third entry into Kalinda's mind was easy, her partner open and eager to receive her. This time their meld had no purposeful intent, both women simply felt their bond flow back and forth, incrementally delving into each other's consciousness until the distinction between who was Alicia and who was Kalinda became meaningless. And the tiny heart inside Kalinda's womb continued to beat steadily.