Chapter 1: Snowbound
Bailey slid the fingers of both hands through the hair at the nape of her neck, and laced them together and she turned in a small circle. The hotel clerk was working as fast as he could, but it had been a long day, she was tired and she had thoroughly anticipated being someplace familiar that night, rather than stuck in the middle of nowhere due to snow storms in Atlanta. It never snowed in Atlanta. It was ridiculous. She sighed once more at the inconveniences of global warming and looked around for the bar. She was going to need a drink before the night was through, and she hoped the bartender knew how to mix a real drink. She smiled tightly as the clerk finally handed her a key and told her what room she was in. A quick signature later, and she was headed toward the hotel bar. Seeing the generic, even-the-art-was-recycled room could wait. A drink couldn't.
By the time Mark finished his story, his voice was almost embarrassingly loud. He stared at the empty pitcher of beer on the table, glancing around at his companions. Josh was still snickering from the anecdote, too tired and elated at the same time to realize the story wasn't all that funny in the first place. Though she laughed along, Andi wasn't paying much attention to the guys anymore, letting their arguments and vulgar stories fade into the background as she worked her way through her drink. It wasn't like she didn't appreciate the sentiment of the night- being grounded due to a seemingly endless snowstorm got to her just as much as any of the other pilots, but she was tired, and it was cold outside. Syracuse could be worse, but it wasn't home, and with New York tantalizingly close she just wanted out.
That was where she was supposed to be- being enjoying a few stolen days with her mothers, and what of the rest of their family was there at any given time. The last time she'd managed it, there had been somehow a longer, more arduous parting, and it had left her unsettled. She was brought back from her thoughts roughly by the pitcher being slid in front of her. "You're up Kincaid," Mark smiled broadly at her, and she rolled her eyes as she got up. She supposed it was her turn, and she'd been matching them glass-for-glass all night. As she stepped up to the bar, the blond woman already seated there caught her eye. There was something familiar about her, and Andi nodded to the bartender while she tried to sort it out.
Bailey gave the woman next to her a cursory glance, nodding slightly as she took in the uniform, before she focused again on her bad old fashioned. She should have just ordered the whisky straight. Two airports away from her destination and none of it drivable. The entire East Coast was buried under the snow. She could have given up on the drink and gone to her room, gotten some work done, graded papers or reviewed some research, but she just didn't feel like it. She had more flights stretching out in front of her the next day. She could do it then.
Something in the quick, dismissive look made Andi look twice. She would have liked to blame it on the beer, but she wasn't to that point just yet. She moved a little closer, leaning on the bar. "Snowed in?" It was almost a rhetorical question given the storm outside, but Andi wasn't feeling too creative.
"Just like everyone else here." Bailey nodded, taking in the whole bar. "Your friends seem like they're enjoying themselves." She looked back at the table of pilots who seemed to have gone back to their stories, despite the lack of fresh beer.
"Yeah...I'm sure they are." Andi was starting to feel like she was intruding on the other woman's night, but wasn't quite ready to give up, "where are you trying to get to, as it's obviously not here." Before she could get an answer, she heard Mark's voice carry across the room, "Hey Kincaid! Give up, or take her upstairs already, just leave the beer on your way!" Andi glared back at him as the table erupted into laughter. She should have expected it- Andi wasn't usually above the same type of behavior herself. She muttered a quick, "sorry, one second," and took the pitcher back to the table, slamming it down, and knocking Mark's half-full glass into his lap obviously on purpose. "Don't be jealous Gregson, I'm sure Josh will take you home later." She let a grin flicker over her face as Mark tried to come up with a response, but failed entirely.
Bailey watched the entire exchange with a wary eye. There was something interesting about the other woman, but she really didn't need to be yelled at by guy who hadn't seemed to have gotten past the 'frat boy' stage of human male development. She got enough of that at work. She pulled a bill from her purse and slid it to the bartender. "I'm just headed up to my room, actually. Sorry." She smiled tightly. She didn't have the energy for a one night stand with someone half her age. She didn't have any interest in one night stands in general.
Andi turned back in time to see the blond getting up, and intercepted the bartender. "No, let me get that. I'm sorry about them, it's the least I can do for your putting up with that." She tried to give her an endearing smile, "Or stay for another, it's on me."
"I'm sure that smile works on a lot of other people, and I'm flattered, really, but it's gotten late and I should be getting to bed." It was nice of the other woman to buy her the drink, and it wasn't as if her smile, her far too charming smile, left her unaffected, but she had rules and she stuck to those rules. One of them was no one night stands. They just led to complications. Normally professional ones, as the rule had originally been intended for conferences, but just because the situation was slightly different didn't mean that the rule wasn't a good one.
Andi opened her mouth to insist, but closed it again. How the other woman had so succinctly seen through her act made her just that much more interesting. "Okay, but how about if we're still stuck here tomorrow, you let me buy you dinner?" She could see the blond preparing to decline, and cut her off, "no strings attached, do it as a favor to me- give me an excuse to ditch those bastards for the night." From the weather report, she gathered she had even odds of her plan working, but it was better than what she was getting so far.
Bailey narrowed her eyes, regarding the woman even more critically. "Do you actually know someplace decent here to get dinner, or am I going to end up drinking more bad drinks?" She couldn't believe that she was actually considering the offer, but she knew nothing at all about Syracuse and she wasn't looking forward to seeing what the hotel might offer. One dinner couldn't really hurt. She didn't have any rules about that.
Andi smiled broadly, "Don't worry, this isn't my first snowstorm on this flightplan." She held out her hand, "I suppose I should introduce myself then, Andrea Duran-Kincaid... Andi."
"Bailey Anderson." She shook Andi's hand, trying not to think about just how warm it was against her own perpetually cold hand. "I'll, uh, see you in the lobby tomorrow night, assuming we're both still here."
Andi's smile didn't fade, and she resisted the urge to keep holding onto Bailey's hand. "Eight? You like Italian?"
"I do." Bailey stepped back toward the elevator, repositioned the strap of her bag as she pressed the call button. If she was looking forward to the thought of dinner the next night, she didn't acknowledge it. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Chapter 2: Breakfast for Two
Andi let out a long breath and twisted her neck carefully to one side, then the other, wincing as she heard a distinct crack. The last flight hadn't been long, but the whole ordeal had. They'd gotten out just in time for her to both miss her dinner with Bailey and to get snowed-in again. At least this time she was in New York, and if a car could get through the streets, she'd be home in an hour. Her suitcase wheels hummed pleasantly behind her, and her boots clicked as she walked through the terminal. She was about to make for the exit when she caught a glimpse of a familiar face. Bailey was leaning against the glass wall of the hallway, one hand holding her phone and the other pressed to her forehead.
"Hey, Gregson, I'm gonna be a minute. I'll catch up with you tomorrow."
He gave her a tired shrug, "Sure Kincaid, have a good night, don't get lost in that mansion of yours."
She shot him half a glare as he turned away. Even after proving herself many times over, to some she'd always be the rich kid just flying for fun. She slowed and approached Bailey more cautiously, hoping she wouldn't be immediately sent away. "Hey, you look thrilled to be in New York." She fumbled for what to say next, "Um...at least it isn't Syracuse?"
Bailey was frowning when she heard Andi's voice. "Yeah, but it isn't Atlanta." And if it took her much longer to get there, the entire trip would be pointless. She sighed and put her cell phone away. If nothing else, at least she had managed to get a hotel room for the night. "Sorry. I know it isn't your fault." It didn't make her any less frustrated though.
Andi tucked her hair behind her ear, and stepped forward to avoid being run down by a family with a luggage cart. "I know, but what can I do to make it better?" She shifted, "Er...well, besides stop the snowstorm I guess."
"Oh, you don't have to do anything." Bailey smiled nervously. "I've got a hotel room and I'm on the first flight in the morning, assuming that Atlanta is open again. I just need to get into the city."
Andi raised an eyebrow. "Well, I think I could help out with that, but you'd have to let me buy you that dinner." She had little doubt that her mother would have a driver waiting downstairs already for her, and at the risk of appearing spoiled, it was likely that a regular cab would be scarce in the storm.
"Uhm..." Bailey licked her lips, weighing her options. She really didn't want to be stuck in the airport for the night. "Sure. Yeah. Thanks." A ride and dinner didn't have to mean anything if she didn’t want it to.
Andi tried not to smile too openly, though he steps were much lighter as they headed for the exit, and the pain in her neck had suddenly evaporated. "Great! There's a place that's always my first stop when I get back into the City." And it wasn't pretentious either. They walked into a throng of passengers at the baggage claim, but Andi headed to the side, nodding to a well-dressed driver. "Hey Charlie. Sorry they sent you out in the snow on account of me again." He didn't have a sign like the other hired drivers, but again, he didn't work for anyone who's last name wasn't Kincaid. "Charlie, this is my new friend Bailey, she got stuck here with me for the night, but I promised her a good meal. Any thoughts where I might take her?" She winked at him knowingly.
Bailey tried not to react visibly to the fact that Andi apparently had her own driver and just followed them both out. She really hadn't packed for this sort of weather and after the walk to the car, she was incredibly happy to be someplace warm again. "Thank you for this, again."
Waving her off, Andi said, "Don't, I was really looking forward to getting stuck in the snow with you, I was almost upset when I thought I'd missed my chance." The driver moved cautiously through the streets, though the traffic was light for the city, many drivers discouraged by the ongoing storm. The tires crunched against a snowdrift when they pulled up outside a small building nestled between much larger neighbors. She slid out when Charlie opened the door and automatically offered her hand to Bailey, "Careful, it's getting deep out here."
Charlie shut the door behind them, and got back into the car. He'd be back outside in an hour. Reluctantly, Andi let Bailey's hand go as she led her into the small diner, smiling over her shoulder. "Don't mind the decor, you won't find better pancakes anywhere."
"Pancakes, huh?" Bailey let Andi lead then to table and she sat down across from her. She didn't know what she had been expecting, but after the car and driver, it wasn't a diner and pancakes. She smiled at the waitress as she poured her a cup of coffee, settling back into the booth and really looking at Andi for the first time. It was only then that she realized just how much younger than her the other woman probably was, 10 or 15 years at least, and she was a bit stunned. She tried to shake it off though. "I think I might have gotten though grad school because of diner pancakes, so if these really are the best, they're going to have a lot to live up to."
Andi wrapped her fingers around her mug and gave Bailey a sideways smile. "I think they'll manage just fine." The waitress returned with plastic-covered menus before Andi could continue, "So, I guess I should ask what you went to school for, what do you do now?" Her own occupation was blatantly obvious after all.
"Marine biology, which is why I'm trying to get to Atlanta. I'm co-authoring a study with one of the researchers at the aquarium and I wanted to be there when we started collecting data. If I don't get out of here tomorrow morning, that isn't going to happen." Bailey's smile got tighter.
The response was so far from what she thought about on a daily basis, Andi immediately found the thought refreshing. "What are you collecting data on? And where do you normally do your work..?" She resisted the urge to string more questions on, but most of the talk at home alternated between politics and finance, and she genuinely wanted to know more.
"I study sea otters, primarily. And I teach at the University of Washington, so I live in Seattle. Though summers take me a lot further north." Bailey smiled at the waitress as she came back, ordering her pancakes just as Andi had recommended.
Andi just smiled and nodded at the waitress when she asked 'the usual.' It was nice to have some small parts of the city that felt like home. "I don't know anything about sea otters. They're the ones with the whiskers, right?" Andi immediately felt the need to drop her forehead onto the tabletop, but years of being drilled in manners by Selena narrowly prevented it.
Bailey chuckled, she just couldn't help herself. "Yeah, they have whiskers." She was educating the public. It was part of her job. And there was something about the way that Andi clearly knew she sounded like an idiot that was incredibly adorable.
Andi refrained from letting on that she only remembered that because her mother had once rented an entire wing of an aquarium for James’ birthday party. She'd been young then, but it had left an impression. Their food was brought over, and she smiled a little sheepishly when the waitress put down her pancakes and a large glass of milk as well. "How long are you going to Atlanta for?" She herself only had a few days off before her next flight.
"I was supposed to be there for a week, but it looks like it's going to be closer to 4 days with all of the delays. I'm coming back out over Spring Break, but..." She shrugged. That was a few months away and did nothing for her current sense of disappointment.
"Maybe I could suggest a direct flight for you next time then." Andi was still smiling as she started to eat, "so, should I ask how the pancakes measure up?"
Bailey took a small bite of the pancakes and couldn't suppress a small moan. "Those are very, very good pancakes." She didn't know if they were the best that she had ever had, but they were certainly in her top five. "And if I'd gotten a direct flight, I'd probably be stuck in Alabama right now."
"That at least, is true." Andi's milk was already half gone. "So, no chance I could get you to have a layover in New York on your way back so I could really show you the city?"
Bailey chuckled and ducked her head, pushing some hair behind one of her ears. As much as she was enjoying dinner, she knew that trouble was the only thing she'd get if she came back to New York. "I have classes to get back to and final exams to write." She couldn't keep the regret from her voice though.
Andi brightened at the sound, her dark eyes flashing. She was getting back on familiar ground now. "Maybe I should go back to school then," she quipped.
Bailey could only shake her head in bemusement. "It would be incredibly unprofessional for me to get involved with a student. Not that we're going to be getting involved." Still, she couldn't stop blushing. "And I bet you haven't taken anything beyond freshman biology."
Andi grinned, quietly working her fork between her fingers. She chose to ignore the first half of the comment, enjoying Bailey's embarrassment for the moment. "Define 'anything'. I've learned quite a bit more since then."
The laugh caught her off guard and she nearly choked on her coffee. "That is not at all what I meant." And now her cheeks were an even brighter shade of red.
Andi held Bailey's eyes, laughing quietly as the older woman's composure melted. Her grin turned wicked, "I don't see what's so funny, there's a lot to learn about flying planes. They're....complicated you know?"
"You were not talking about flying." Bailey pointed a finger at Andi reproachfully. "Don't even try that."
"Try what?" The waitress brought the check, and Andi snatched it before Bailey even had the chance to reach for it. "Don't suppose I could interest you in a drink? Dessert someplace?" She was leaning forward hopefully, "We could...discuss academic pursuits."
"I, uhm, really should be getting to my hotel." Bailey bit her lip. Part of her wanted to go get drinks or dessert or whatever with Andi, but that was such a bad idea that she couldn't seriously consider it. And academic pursuits was clearly code for other things that she just couldn't entertain. She would be going to Atlanta in the morning and then she would be back in Seattle and she would never see Andi again. She just wasn't interested in that sort of encounter. "Really."
Andi tried not to look to disappointed, but sighed quietly anyway, "if you're absolutely sure..." She wouldn't push too much more. "Where are you staying?" She could see the car running outside already.
"I... don't actually remember." Bailey laughed at herself and pulled a scrap a paper from her pocket. "I guess it's good that I wrote it down." She handed the scrap to Andi fully aware that Andi was the one who had made her forget.
Andi nodded quietly, thinking it was a bit of a waste seeing as how her house had several empty bedrooms at the moment, but knowing that was out of the question. "It's not far." She left a healthy tip, and slid out of the booth when she saw Bailey start to gather her things.
"Well, good." Bailey tried not to be disappointed. She really had enjoyed having dinner with Andi. She got up and headed toward the car, smiling at the driver as he opened the door for her. Surely there was someplace else he would rather be that night. Someplace warmer.
The drive wasn't long, and Andi didn't wait in the car when they arrived. She followed Bailey onto the sidewalk. The snowfall had yet to relent, and a few flakes were clinging to their clothes already, "I guess I should say goodnight then." She was giving Bailey a last chance, while steeling herself for the impending end of their night.
Bailey nodded and grabbed her bag, only to have one of the bellhops quickly relieve her of it. "Thank you for dinner. And the drive." She tried to suppress a yawn but was only partially successful. The fact that she still had to check in was looming in front of her and all she really wanted to do was crawl into bed.
Andi flicked her eyes down to the snow, then back to Bailey again, "No, thank you for the time. I know you'd rather be someplace else." She took a breath, and leaned forward. She could feel Bailey tense, then relax as she kissed her cheek. The brunette blushed, hoping the dim light would hide it, and produced a business card, which she pressed into Bailey's palm. "If you're ever in New York, or, anywhere for that matter..." Her voice trailed off.
"Uh, yeah, thanks." Bailey was blushing again, but she tucked the card into her pocket, almost sad that she would never call the number on it. That sadness touched her smile. "Have a good night, Andi." She finally stepped back and into the revolving door.
Andi watched her go for a moment, pulling her coat around her, before getting back in the car. Charlie glanced knowingly at her in the rear-view mirror, and she just nodded quietly, "I think it's time I went home."
Chapter 3: Interlude
Andi waived Charlie off and watched the car pull smoothly away from the curb a long moment before turning back to the door. The house would seem impossibly imposing to most anyone else, but to Andi it was still home--even if the mood inside did not resemble her childhood memories any longer. Still, the lights were on--she was expected, after all. Andi keyed in her code to the box, and the door locks clicked open as usual. She stepped into the high-ceilinged entry, setting her small travel bag down beside her as she slowly unwound her scarf and pulled off her gloves. She could hear footsteps coming from the hall and another set down the stairs. One would be the nighttime housekeeper, ready to scold her for getting the floor wet--and the other would likely be her mother, who never slept while one of her children was expected.
"Andrea." There was no question about which child was coming home. It was a holiday or any other special occasion. Andi was still there baby, still their girl who came home to sleep in her own bed. It wasn't regularly, and Samantha knew better than to think of her as a child still, but the distinction, the relationship was one that she and Selena held just a little more tightly. She took the girl's shoulders, staring into her eyes for a moment before pulling her into a firm hug. She looked so much like Selena--more and more now--and it took Sam's breath away. "Welcome home," she murmured as she pulled away, hand going automatically to straighten the tie she was still wearing.
Andi let out a deep breath she felt she'd been holding since the last time she'd been home. She knew what it meant to her mother that she still came back when she could. Quietly, then she glanced up. "How is she tonight?"
Sam's bright eyes clouded, but her face remained impassive as she imperceptibly shook her head. She let the housekeeper take Andi's coat as she took the girl's elbow and led her into the warm house. "She's slept a little. The doctors are trying a new medicine." She spoke briskly, but her tone was grave, soft. Her grip on Andi's elbow was tighter than she meant it to be. "She's happy you were able to make it here."
"And I am well enough to tell her that myself, amora." At the words, Andi paused and glanced back to the stairs. Her smile broadened despite the pale of her mother's skin that seemed to be increasing. She could see Samantha open her mouth to protest, but Selena drew herself taller--still imposing yet calm as she always had been--and the blonde remained silent. Andi felt the hand drop from her arm as she went to greet her mother, hugging her, though a bit more gingerly than she had Samantha.
"Andrea, it is so good to have you home tonight, " Selena seemed to brighten further as she pushed Andi back to look her over, "I was worried for your flight with the snow like it has been." She smiled then as she watched her youngest prepare to protest like she always had. "But I know you are careful." Selena laughed quietly. "Your hair though, you should pull it back from your beautiful face sometimes."
Sam smiled softly, almost sadly, and she hung back for a moment before approaching, drawing Selena into her arms gently "You should be in bed," she murmured, quietly. "Andi is perfectly capable of visiting you there." It used to be their private space, their retreat where no one else was allowed, but Samantha had yielded it to their children as Selena grew weaker, as she grew more and more protective of her and of her family. "I was just going to bring her."
"Of course you were." There was a slight warning in Selena's voice, though she was already receding, taking Andi's hand as she went back up the stairs. She softened then. "I know she can, but what is my life if I cannot greet my children when they come home." Though they were now scattered, the children had been returning more dutifully of late, though Selena still lamented from time to time of their absence.
Sam kissed Selena's hair as she rubbed her arm lightly. "And you can tell her goodnight now." Her voice held just as much of a warning, but it was ever soft, worrying creeping into its undertones. She broke away for a mere moment to pull Andi into another quick embrace. "You'll have breakfast with us in the morning." It was not a question but a tradition, and she looked forward to it in its own right as well as because Selena would. It was good to have their youngest under their roof again, even if for a short time.
Chapter 4: Unannounced
There were days when Bailey really regretted her decisions to become a teacher, and when her undergrads were all failing their first quizzes of the semester and her grad students were already asking for extensions, all it did was up her frustration level to unmanageable levels. She really, really needed a drink, but her office hours lasted another 20 minutes and she knew that if she left, someone would come looking for her.
Andi had never really considered Seattle as a place to spend any real time. The people she met from there seemed to like it, but they also seemed to like waterproof shoes and season trail passes a bit more than she did. All she knew was the airport hotels weren't the greatest, and the artwork in Terminal A tended to make her a bit contemplative. This time, however, she had actually worked out a two day stopover and was getting to love the city more by the minute.
It was cold, but the trees on campus were still green, and there was no snow to contend with on the ground or ice on the stairs to Bailey's building. People smiled over their cups of coffee as she went upstairs, and soon she was knocking lightly on the cedar door frame just under a brass nameplate that read 'Bailey Anderson, PhD.' She took a breath and pushed the door open the rest of the way, launching into a speech she’d been rehearsing since 35,000 ft over South Dakota. "So, on the flight out here from Chicago, my co-pilot and I were having this heated debate about sea otters, and I thought you might be able to settle things for us...."
Bailey looked up, startled out of her murderous thoughts and not quite believing her eyes. "You what?" Things just weren't quiet processing and her brain was slow to catch up with reality. "Andi?" She honestly hadn't expected to see the pilot ever again.
"Last time I checked, that was my name. And you do know a thing or two about sea otters, right? Or am I about to lose this bet completely?" She smirked then, hoping she was reading the surprise on the other woman's face as happy, rather than the urge to get rid of her. That would be unfortunate because she'd managed to find a restaurant that appeared to have an amazing view and no less than three cooking styles of salmon. She didn't care much about that, but it seemed to be something the locals were particularly proud of.
“Uh, yeah.” Bailey rubbed her forehead and quickly shifted some papers around on her desk, trying to make it seem neater than it was. She still couldn’t believe that Andi had just wandered into her office out of the blue, literally. She hadn’t thought that one dinner would really leave that much of an impression. “What was the question?” She motioned to one of the free chairs across from her desk. Well, one of them was free. The other was covered in a stack of articles and paperwork.
Andi smiled sheepishly, and took the offered seat, glancing up as if trying to remember the speech she'd memorized long ago. "Okay...here it is: If I was studying the diet of Northwest Sea Otters...how would I best go about..." She paused and smiled again, "How would I go about getting you to go to dinner with me tonight." Despite her outward bravado, Andi's heart was speeding, hoping she wasn't about to get shown the door.
"I, um," Bailey was trying really, really hard not to smile but it wasn't working out for her. "I don't know what you're going to learn about the diets of otters from eating dinner with me, but, uh, the most effective way would probably be just to ask." She was blushing terribly and she started shuffling papers again.
Andi couldn't help but let her smile slip then, and she reached out and stilled one of Bailey's hands, forcing the other woman to look her in the eye, "Alright then. Would you be so kind as to let me take you to dinner tonight?"
"I walked into that one, didn't I?" She chuckled. It wasn't that she didn't know the invitation would be the next thing out of Andi's mouth but part of her still couldn't believe that Andi had flown all that way just to ask her out. She grabbed Andi's hand and held on tight, feeling like she was floundering. "Yeah. Dinner sounds good." She was sure her uncertainty was transparent.
The bemusement behind Bailey's expression was not lost on Andi, but it only drove her on, and she stood up almost a little too quickly, "Great! So, 8:00? I was told I needed a car here, so I rented one. Can I pick you up or....?"
"Um, yeah." Bailey blinked in surprise. Everything was moving so fast, too fast. She started writing her address down by rote. "You can pick me up." Oh, this was a bad idea. Such a very bad idea.
Andi checked the address against the note in her hand. It was a quiet street, and though the yards around the modest wood-frame houses were small, they were filled with plants and shrubs--some flowering even as snow melted around them. It had taken her three times around the block to find the right one, turning up and down the steep inclines of the neighborhood overlooking the city and the water beyond. She parked and walked up to the front door, straightening her clothes almost nervously as she went.
Bailey didn't even wait for Andi to ring the bell. She had been staring through a front window, pacing and waiting for Andi to pull up and the motion to open the door was simply instinct. Now, it was far too late to attempt to look anything other than nervous. "Hey." She closed the door behind herself and quickly kissed Andi's cheek before stepping toward her car. "So, where are we going?"
Andi paused for a moment, the kiss having made her forget what she was planning on saying next, "Oh...its at University and Second street..." She moved ahead to open the door to the car, "sorry I mean, it's just by the art museum." Andi slid into the driver's seat, blushing slightly--she never quite did get over the habit of planning by directions rather than destinations.
"Sounds good." Bailey put on her seat belt and tried not to fidget, but it was a losing battle. She was glad that someone else was driving though. She was fairly sure that she would get completely lost if she tried even though she knew exactly where they were going. But then getting lost was one of her talents. "I can't believe that you actually took the time to find my office." It was as flattering as it was embarrassing.
"Well, where else was I going to find you?" It had seemed the better option, since searching for a home address might be too much...even for her. Andi took the downtown exit and started to weave through the streets toward the waterfront. She smiled then, "I'm just glad you didn't have me thrown out."
Bailey chuckled. "It would have probably been the most excitement campus police had all week." She pushed some hair behind an ear and ducked her head down. "But hard to justify. You weren't exactly being unruly." She looked up in surprise as Andi parked the car. They had gotten there much more quickly than she had expected, but then she always had to add at least 15 minutes to any trip she took alone.
Andi ducked out of the car and tried to make it around in time to open Bailey's door, though she couldn't quite manage it. It was something her mother always did for Selena on the few occasions when they drove themselves.
"Sorry." A blush returned to Bailey's cheeks and she wondered if she was forever going to be blushing around Andi. Of course that would mean seeing her again after this dinner and she simply didn't want to think that far into the future.
Andi smiled, "for what?" She didn't wait for an answer, however, and instead lead them up to the restaurant. "Have you been here before?" She reached to open the door, but paused as she found it locked. She tried the other side, expression falling. It wasn't until she tried again that she looked up and saw the handwritten sign taped to the door, closed for heating repair. "Oh...I..." For the first time Andi didn't quite know what to say, her embarrassment showing.
"I haven't, but I guess that's not going to change tonight." Bailey chuckled and tried not to think about just how young Andi looked in her embarrassment. "There has to be someplace around here that's open though." She didn't often get to downtown Seattle, so she didn't really know the area. If they had been near campus or on a boat off of the Alaskan coast she might have been able to offer a suggestion, as it was, she was at a loss.
Andi mindlessly tried the door one more time, still not quite willing to believe her best laid plans had gone so wrong so quickly. Though she'd deny it, there was a part of being a Kincaid that made her fully unused to certain disappointments. "I....yes, I'm sure." She finally turned back to Bailey, looking at the ground, then back up. "I just...well do you know any?"
Bailey opened her mouth to respond but then quickly closed it, looking around and groping for someplace to suggest. "I, uh, don't really come down here, but I'm sure if we just walk around a little we can find something." Though looking around again she wasn't seeing anything. "Or we could just... go back to my place and I could cook something, I guess."
“No.” Andi put her hand on her forehead, then smiled up at the sky, “No, I mean... I didn’t ask you out to have you cook me dinner.” Even if a night alone at Bailey’s sounded better than anything she might have been able to plan. Andi sighed at the locked door, resigning herself. She smiled more fully then, “At least let me pay for take out.”
"Alright." She might not know any good restaurants downtown, but decent take out wouldn't be a problem. She had a collection of menus on her fridge door. She remembered to let Andi get the car door for her this time and soon they were headed back the way they came. "There's a good sushi place that delivers in my neighborhood, if you like that sort of thing..." She was kinda of at a loss and trying once again to push back her nerves.
Andi quickly covered the sheepish smile that was working across her features, the light in her eyes looking every bit as vibrant as Selena's had been, "yes, yes I do happen to like that sort of thing."
"Well," Bailey shifted in her seat. Her smile still had a tinge of nervousness. "Good." She nodded to herself and looked down at her hand before looking back up though the windshield. "Good." She shouldn't have invited Andi back to her house. It sent the wrong message. Andi was just going to be disappointed, particularly after flying all the way out to Seattle. Well, there wasn't anything that she could do about that now. Besides, it wasn't as if she had asked Andi to show up out of the blue.
Andi just smiled, and started driving back the way they had came. She was determined not to let the setback phase her, especially as the promise of an uninterrupted evening with Bailey was more than she had even been counting on. Suddenly the idea of a night without the waiters, the hostess, and any number of other diners was looking better and better.
Chapter 5: Interlude
Andi pulled the towel off of her tousled hair, stepping out of the modest bathroom of the airport hotel. She glanced out the window and smiled to herself quietly. The night before had been so...she had to think about it for a moment...so simple. Though she couldn’t quite place the need, simple was something Andi had been seeking for most of her life.
Bailey’s home was comfortable--well decorated but understated. Books overflowed their shelves and were piled on the floor, and amongst the academic chaos, there was an impressive amount of artwork on the walls. Andi hadn’t wanted to spend the evening getting lectures on the artist’s inspiration, so she’d left her questions for another time.
They’d had dinner, talked, watched a movie, and finally had gotten to the moment of decision--of where the night was headed. Andi smiled to herself again. Bailey’s lips had been just fleetingly on hers before the other woman had moved away, started talking about early classes and papers to grade. But Andi could tell that she hadn’t been the only one finding it hard to say goodnight. There had been a light, one Andi was sure not many had seen, in Bailey's features as they had stood at the door and made plans for the next day. The wait was driving her crazy, but even that was surprisingly refreshing.
Her phone chimed then, pulling her away from the new memories as it reminded her of a new voicemail.
Chapter 6: Voicemail
Cecilia looked at the phone sitting in her lap, her face reflected in the dark screen. She had one more call to make. James had been the first, and the conversation had been short, almost businesslike, as usual. His voice had been quiet. Sophia was next, and she had been prepared. There had not been time to send her a message, but she and James knew things, almost as if they had been born twins. They might as well have been. Now, there was only Andi to consider--Andi, whose wide eyes were so like their mother's that Cecilia did not have to close her eyes to imagine them. She sighed softly as she made the screen come to life. Andi was not as young as they all remembered her to be, but she would not be as prepared.
She didn't even know where Andi was--if she was in the air or moving from one flight to another. The youngest Kincaid was always moving, always circling out from them only to be pulled back in again, where the rest of them stayed close, moved and shifted only in the ways that related most to the family. But Andi was theirs, and they needed her then.
Finally, she lifted the phone to her ear, the ringing sound filling it hollowly. She expected to wait, to sit through the bright seconds of Andi's voicemail greeting. Cecilia could see the expression she would have had on her face when recording it. She did not hesitate after the tone. "Andrea, you need to come home," she said simply, softly. "Our mother is dying."
She was silent for a moment before closing the line and slowly lowering the device back to her lap. Cecilia fixed her eyes on the closed bedroom door. Her mother wanted to be at home. She stood, tracing her steps back to the room, reaching for the door knob. It felt solid and cold in her hand. It was fitting that she be there. No one would question it.
When she stepped inside, her footfalls barely making a sound, the room was too warm--like the balcony overlooking the city in a summer sunset, but there was so little light. She watched for a moment until she saw her mother's dark eyes fix on her. "They're all coming, Mama," she said softly.
Chapter 7: Second Chances
Andi lingered, watching a plane make its final approach to the far runway, but then turned back from the view when her phone beeped a second time to remind her of the unheard message. She ran her fingers through her hair as she reached for it, pausing then when she heard a knock at the door. She cocked her head quietly—she didn’t remember ordering room service or extra towels. Glancing down, she read Cecilia’s name on the phone and knew she should listen, but there’s something impossible to resist about the mystery of a closed door- and she put the phone back down, and moved to answer it.
Bailey ran a hand through her hair as she stared at the closed door. It was down for once, not pulled back or up or in a twist. She had pulled it down in the car, tried to make it look less disheveled than it was. Part of her felt foolish at gesture, at the impulse to show up at all, and that part was telling her to run away, to go back to her car and go home like any sensible person. She'd been grappling with all of that all night long, ever since Andi left, and on through her rushed breakfast. But she tried to ignore her good sense, and the conflict between it and all of the reasons she was standing at the door was enough to render her motionless. She tried to take deep breaths as she waited for Andi to open the door.
The door swung open, and Andi’s eyes widened as a smile spread across her face. “Bailey, hey!”
"Hi." She was wringing her hands together, and as soon as she noticed she pushed them deep into her pockets. "I, uhm, I just..." She shrugged. She couldn't really explain why she was standing there without so much as a phone call to announce her intentions. "Can I come in?"
“Hey, sure, of course.” Andi stepped back to let Bailey out of the hallway. She obviously had been working up the nerve to show up, but for what reason Andi had no idea. She knew what might have made her do the same, but was beginning to realize how different they were- and that it wasn’t a bad thing at all. “Why the surprise visit? I wasn’t expecting to be so lucky before I headed out.”
"Yeah." Bailey stepped into the room and glanced around. She wasn't surprised to see that it looked like a hotel room. "I just, uh..." Bailey shrugged. "I wanted to see you again." The admission brought a faint blush to her cheeks as she turned to face Andi. She wanted to do something even more impulsive, but indecision held her back.
Andi watched as Bailey's color changed, trying to hide her own growing excitement, and hoping she wasn't reading the moment wrong. "Here I am then." She smiled, and stepped a little closer.
Bailey nodded and whispered another, "yeah," as she reached out for Andi, catching a bit of her shirt and holding on to it. "I just..." She looked up at Andi. "I have rules about this sort of thing. To stop me from making stupid mistakes. But..." She shrugged again, tilting her face up toward Andi. "I'd really appreciate it if you would just kiss me now where I can stop babbling..."
It was possibly the best, most innocent request Andi had heard in years. She didn't answer, and instead just shook her head quietly before kissing Bailey. She felt the older woman letting out a long breath as they pressed closer, Andi's arms slipping effortlessly around Bailey's waist.
Bailey brought her hands up to rest on Andi's biceps. She had to hold on to something or she was going to end up falling over and that would be even more embarrassing. Plus, it would mean that the kiss was over, and she really, really wasn't ready to stop kissing Andi. She brushed her tongue over Andi's lips as she closed her eyes, melting completely into the younger woman's arms. Eventually the kiss did have to end, but Bailey stayed close. "Thank you."
Then it was Andi who let out a sigh. Bailey felt perfect there in her arms, but Andi couldn't deny she was now painfully needing more. She leaned down and spoke quietly in Bailey's ear, "You're welcome, but, I hope you'll stay."
"Well, I didn't come all the way out here just to turn around and go home after one kiss." Just saying it took all of her remaining courage. She pressed closer to Andi and hoped that she would just take over.
Andi didn't take time to smile too long, or to ask any more questions. She had waited more than long enough. Their next kiss was long, but Andi didn't rush, and threaded her fingers through Bailey's hair. The bed was so close, and Andi pushed them back toward it. Standing was suddenly becoming far too much to concentrate on.
Bailey sat as the bed hit the back of her knees, but she didn't lie back. One step at a time was about as fast as she could go. She smiled nervously as Andi sat beside her and leaned in for another kiss. A hand in the center of Andi's chest stopped her. "There's no reason to go too quickly, is there?" She was still certain that all of this was going to blow up in her face.
Pausing, Andi tried not to let her anticipation show to much. She could think of a few reasons to go quickly, and the longer Bailey sat there, even more reasons to go very... very slowly. She tried to clear her head, "I, no, no not at all." Andi bit her lip, holding her breath and hoping Bailey wasn't about to run.
"Okay." Bailey took a deep breath and nodded before saying, "okay," again. The reassurance was enough. She leaned in and kissed Andi again, feeling her breath hitch in her chest. She cupped Andi's neck in her hands, bringing them down under the collar of her shirt, nails lightly scraping against the front of Andi's shoulders and her collarbones. She could feel Andi shiver. If they could just stay like this for a little bit longer....
Andi's resolve was fast melting, but she held herself back against the almost physical pull to push Bailey back on the bed. She moaned lightly, deepening the kiss again, drawing it out.
Bailey tried to slide closer, but their knees kept getting in the way, and then angle was uncomfortable, and then she just wasn't quite close enough. For once, she didn't think. She simply acted. She straddled Andi's lap, ignoring the complaints in her knees in favor of the taste of Andi's mouth. The rest of her body was telling her things that were much, much more interesting anyway.
And Andi held herself back, simply allowing herself to be kissed. However, she couldn’t help her fingers slowly working under the hem of Bailey’s shirt. Her skin was hot beneath, and Andi moaned lightly as she spread her palms on the blonde’s back, holding her close.
"I, uh," Bailey swallowed and licked her now swollen lips, "I haven't done this in a while... A couple of years... at least not with anybody else." Her cheeks were red again, but she stayed on Andi's lap. "I just... hope you're not expecting a lot... fireworks or anything. I don't know if I can do fireworks...."
Andi bit the insides of her cheeks. She wanted to laugh- but not at Bailey’s expense, just at how much she was enjoying the moment altogether. She just smiled and shook her head, kissing Bailey again, “I think you’ve already exceeded my expectations.”
"If you say so." Bailey ran a hand through her hair then brought it to rest on Andi's shoulder, fingers tangling in Andi's hair as she scratched at the edge of her scalp. She sighed and rested her forehead against Andi's, eyes closed against whatever she might see. "I don't just hop into bed with people on a whim, and I really didn't think that I'd ever see you again. And now you're here and I'm here and I don't want to disappoint you." She opened her eyes. "But I do want this. I think you're going to end up breaking my heart, but somehow you've made me stop caring." She kissed Andi again, just for a moment, before pulling away. "Take me to bed, Andi. Don't give me the chance to start thinking again."
Andi's mouth hung open slightly, she hadn't been prepared for the force with which Bailey's words hit her. She could feel a mix of desire and emotion start to well up within her. All she could do then was nod- nod and pull Bailey into another heated kiss, hoping for her actions to do the talking. The next thing she knew she was pushing Bailey off of her and onto the bed, covering her warm body with her own.
Bailey pressed her nose against the side of Andi's neck and sighed happily as she rested her hand on Andi' stomach. "I'm glad I decided to come over." Her eyes were closed and Andi's skin was soft under her fingers. The room was quiet now, a bit of light filtering in from the street cast shadows over them.
Andi tightened her arms around Bailey and shifted just enough to kiss her head, "Mmm, oh me too. I could lie like this all day, well almost all day. How would you feel about getting some dinner?" She smiled, "I know a great place, and we wouldn't even have to leave the hotel. We could be right back here in no time."
"I could be tempted into dinner, if it didn't involve going too far." She kissed the skin she had just nuzzled, but didn't move. "And if you promise we can come back here afterward and return to the topic at hand."
Andi caught Bailey's lips in a playful kiss, "It's a promise." Her hands slid down the other woman's sides, "should we uh, get dressed then?"
"Mmmhmm." Bailey quickly bit Andi's earlobe before pulling away and getting out of bed. "Do you mind if I take a quick shower first?" She was already heading toward the bathroom. "You could come with me...."
Andi smiled wickedly, "I'll be right there." She didn't care she'd just showered an hour earlier, as far as she was concerned it was morally wrong to deny that kind of request. She watched Bailey turn and step into the bathroom, and heard the water turn on a moment later. Andi was still smiling when she put the phone to her ear to listen to Cecilia's message, but it faded immediately as she listened. The message wasn't long, but the color was draining from her features, and she blinked back the sting of tears that threatened to cloud her eyes. The glow of the earlier moments, the warmth she had felt was erased, covered by a cold and heavy responsibility. Andi might have been the most distant, most independent, of her siblings, but she was still a Kincaid. Without thinking, she pulled on her clothes, and within minutes was dropping a scribbled note on the dresser, and pulling the door of the room closed behind her.
Chapter 8: Interlude
The sound of the door opening roused Cecilia immediately from a restless sleep, and the footsteps of the night maid along with the throbbing in her stiff neck grounded her in where she was. She ran her fingers through her hair as she stood. The light in the entryway was on, but she had fallen asleep in Samantha’s study in the dark. The house had been quiet, had been dark for days, and now she knew they were done waiting.
Theo and Sophia had gone to bed hours ago, and their children were asleep in Andi’s nursery. James was undoubtedly still awake, pacing somewhere upstairs while his wife slept alone. And Cecilia’s bed was untouched. She moved quietly--a habit of Selena’s that she had easily picked up--with her hands clasped in front of her. Wisps of her dark hair escaped her messy bun and clung to her cheeks. She hadn’t thought about it since she put it up that morning, and she did not think about it then.
When she saw Andi slipping out of her coat, Cecilia stopped to watch for a moment. Andi’s hair was wild, and she had circles under her eyes, but she brought with her a brightness. Their baby sister...the one who had been so unexpected and now the one they were waiting for.
“You should have called,” she said quietly.
"I know, I'm sorry Cecilia." Andi finished with her coat, and silently went to her sister, falling comfortably into her arms. She was glad it was Cecilia who greeted her- with the others she wouldn't have managed the apology, or the moment of comfort, no matter how fleeting.
Cecilia merely shook her head before she kissed Andi's hair once. She held her tightly for a moment, longer than was necessary to dissipate the chill. It was a moment where she could let herself feel something besides completely strong, where she could squeeze herself shut against everything. But it was only a moment. Andi needed her just as much as the others, perhaps more. And she was smiling as she pulled back, holding Andi at arms' length just as their mothers would have done. "It's good that you're back…we weren't sure…"
"Where I was?" Andi shrugged slightly, "It doesn't matter now, I came as soon as I heard." She cast her eyes up the stairs behind Cecilia, pausing before muttering a few words under her breath that only her sister would understand. They felt strange on coming from her lips again, and rang in her ears, but she couldn't bring herself to express the question otherwise. The end of the phrase trailed upward as she finished the question, and focused again on Cecilia.
The reply coming from Cecilia's lips was almost singsong, but her tone was no less grave. She took Andi's hand and drew her out of the entry, and she could here the steps of the maid receding. It was very late, and she knew she wouldn't be needed. "She's been waiting." And now that that wait was coming to an end, Cecilia knew the inevitable—even more, she thought, than her siblings. She didn't know the last time Samantha had slept, and she didn't know the last time Andi had seen Selena.