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Alex took Patrice and Sabina's coats and handed them to the attendant before slipping out of her own. She leaned against the elevator wall as the door closed and smiled at the two women. They had come to the club with no plans, simply to enjoy themselves on a Saturday night. Alex was dressed semi casually, as was Patrice, with her hair falling in soft curls over her shoulders, and Sabina was standing straight, naked save for her shoes and collar. Before the doors opened to the formal foyer that led into the club proper instead of the lounge itself, Alex tweaked Sabina's nipples. Then she stepped out of the elevator and through the heavy doors as attendants opened them. For some reason, she wanted to walk through the main hall, to have every bit of the experience of the lush carpet and soft light. it still reminded her of her past, but as they walked to the bar, she knew that those memories no longer drove her to distraction.

It had become almost a comforting habit to walk in with Alex and Sabina. Of course there were nights that took them elsewhere, with Liz or Donna on occasion, and less frequently with someone else. However, tonight didn't feel like one of those times. The blond slid up to the bar and nodded at the server, who automatically poured their drinks. Patrice leaned over and kissed Alex lightly, then nodded at the room, asking where and how her companion would like to proceed.

Sabina followed after Patrice and Alex. She was looking forward to whatever the night would bring, no longer intimidated by the others in attendance or unknown possibilities. She trusted Alex and Patrice implicitly and she no longer worried about disappointing them.

Taking Patrice's hand, Alex raised it to her lips and kissed her fingertips before releasing it to take her drink. "It's quiet tonight," she commented, looking over the room. Alex wondered if there was something else going on in the city and mentally went through invitations they might have gotten. Nothing came to mind, but she wasn't complaining about the lack of a crowd. "Mm, why don't we just relax a little while." She put her hand on the small of Sabina's back and moved to one of the sofas tucked into a dark corner of the room.

Patrice sat, pulling Alex close to her and letting Sabina kneel in her usual place by their feet. She ran her fingers through the girl's hair, and casually noted that Donna was seated across the room, accompanied by a few others, with one of her favorite slaves at her feet. Patrice didn't feel any animus, the girl worked at the club, though she was generally with Donna when she was there. Still, Patrice made a note to go pay her respects at some point in the night.

Sabina settled comfortably onto the floor, looking around the club. She smiled slightly at Donna, then at Jonas. Thomas was curled up at his side, fresh welt marks on his back, and Sabina shivered seeing them. She could picture what he had looked like being whipped and she was sorry to have missed it. He always made the most delightful noises, whimpering and almost mewling and she thought that perhaps Jonas was getting a tad attached to him. She didn't want him, but she had to admit that he was beautiful with those strips.

Alex followed Sabina's gaze and chuckled lightly. She settled against Patrice, leaning comfortably as she crossed her legs. "Patrice...wasn't it just about a year ago that we first brought Sabina to the club?" She thought it might have been. That was about the time Liz had made something of a present of Thomas to Jonas, and the two had been inseparable ever since.

Patrice was quiet for a moment, counting in her head. "Yes, that seems about right." She shook her head and pulled the other blond into a kiss. "It doesn't seem like that long at all, does it?"

"Not at all," Alex replied softly after she met the kiss. She stroked Patrice's cheek before smiling down to Sabina. "It seems like we should mark it somehow." It had been a year full of adjustments, some of which had been easier than others, but Alex was glad of every moment of it.

"I agree." Patrice smiled a little nostalgically, "What did you have in mind?"

Sabina looked up at them, remembering the first time the had brought her to the club and how nervous she had been. She wasn't nervous anymore and she lightly rested her cheek against Alex's knee in a sort of thank you. Whatever they decided to do that night, Sabina was certain that she would enjoy herself.

The blonde looked up thoughtfully as she ran her fingers through Sabina's thick hair. Her gaze drifted from Donna fondling Helene's nipple to the doors leading into the main room near the grand staircase. "It's a quiet night...a perfect time for a whipping," she said thoughtfully. Her mind went to the first time she whipped Sabina in public in Paris, and this, she knew, would look different.

Patrice bit her lip quietly at the words, considering and immediately agreeing. "You're right, and mmmmnn... it's been some time." She leaned down and brushed her fingers over Sabina's back, enjoying the deepening of the girl's eyes in anticipation.

"Sabina, why don't you go and speak to Brynn and see that it's arranged." Alex knew the manager wouldn't deny the request if only because she would enjoy watching it. She put down her drink, deciding not to finish it with the new prospect for the night.

Patrice watched Alex set the glass aside and crossed her legs, already looking forward to the other blonde's performance.

Sabina shivered as she nodded and stood. Finding Brynn wasn't difficult and it only took a brief conversation to set everything up. She returned to Alex and Patrice's side a few minutes later and knelt before she spoke. "Brynn said everything would be ready in 10 minutes. They have to set everything up as she wasn't expecting anything tonight."

Alex nodded and relaxed for a moment, collecting her thoughts. She turned to Patrice and kissed her lightly before standing, making her way into the common room. That something was being set up was already generating buzz, and Alex smiled when she saw Brynn coming towards her with a coiled whip.

Patrice slid her fingers through Sabina's hair again, feeling her own pulse increase and knowing the girl's would be racing even though she had become more accustomed to such things. The blond watched Alex cross the room and pulled Sabina up to kiss her before releasing her to follow Alex.

The brunette shivered again before she got up and headed toward Alex and Brynn. She was anticipating the whipping as much as she was dreading it.

Brynn nodded at Alex as she joined her, holding out the whip. "Giving us a show tonight?"

"It was a little too quiet for my taste," Alex replied, smiling as she held the whip. It never ceased to amaze her how Brynn had managed the club for so many years, had watched and enjoyed watching without ever getting involved in the Scene beyond that. She followed two attendants with her eyes as they took Sabina to the podium and bound her hands around the whipping post. Then she turned to Patrice and smiled, wanting the blonde to enjoy even the moments leading up to the show.

"Plenty of people are going to be disappointed that they decided to stay home tonight." Brynn smirked knowing that if Alex was trying to liven things up it wouldn't stay quiet for long.

And Patrice was, immensely. In accordance with her past, she anticipated the unique rush of emotion that such a scene brought to her. At times, Alex could bring her close to tears without ever touching her. Just watching, listening, was enough to bring it all back. She raised her glass to her lips, not really tasting the liquid anymore as she waited.

The blonde chuckled as she nodded her thanks to Brynn and stepped away. She placed a hand on the small of Patrice's back and stood with her a moment to simply take in the sight of Sabina standing so poised on the podium. "She's beautiful," Alex whispered. Finally, she stepped up and uncurled the whip, making sure Sabina would hear it.

Patrice took in a breath and stepped back, sitting at a table to watch, her hands twisting the glass in front of her.

Sabina took a deep breath when she heard the whip uncurling. She let it out slowly and tried to prepare herself for the coming pain. It no longer scared her like it once did, and she was already wet with anticipation. She bit her lip and pulled slightly against her bonds, trying to hear Alex's next movements.

She took a moment, stepping forward to kiss Sabina's shoulder, as had become habit. But when Alex stepped back, her face was placid, composed. She brought the whip down onto Sabina's perfect skin and kept her mind calm against the rush she felt in her core.

Sabina flinched and moaned as the whip made contact with her skin. She grabbed the rope tying her to the whipping post and hung onto it as pain, adrenaline and endorphins rushed through her system. Each lash brought a fresh wave and brought her closer to tears. It didn't take long before her face was covered in them and she was sobbing uncontrollably.

Though Sabina was sobbing, she was not begging or twisting away. Alex was nearly beaming with pride as she came close to finishing, knowing the girl could take a few more lashes, knowing the those watching were enjoying and that Patrice in particular would be paying close attention. The girl had come a long way.

Sabina finally sagged against the post, unable to hold on any longer. She was crying to her own arm and she had long since completely given herself over to Alex's will. Alex stopped and took a deep breath to calm her beating heart. She carefully coiled the whip and turned to Patrice, nodding silent to her before turning back to Sabina.

Patrice stood and quietly crossed the room, stepping up to Sabina's front. Her eyes were glassy with nearly fallen tears both of sympathy and pride. The blond whispered assurances under her breath as she reached to gently unbind the brunette's hands, catching her as she fell into her arms. The blond stroked Sabina's hair, and smiled quietly over the girl's shoulder at Alex, thanking her silently. Sabina leaned into Patrice's arms, unable to hold herself up otherwise. She pressed her still wet face into Patrice's neck and kissed it lightly.

When Patrice smiled, Alex returned it warmly. She let the blonde take Sabina, calm her and get her off of the podium. Then she turned and nodded to their audience out of courtesy. Sabina had performed beautifully, and now it was time for her reward.

Patrice didn't need confirmation from Alex before carrying as much as leading the girl toward their rooms. They had come to enjoy the public nature of the club, but only in contrast to the moments they enjoyed more privately when they visited.

Sabina, for her part, practically let Patrice carry her back to their rooms and she sunk gratefully to her knees once they got there.

Patrice stepped over to the dresser and took out some salve and returned to Sabina. "You may lie on the bed while I take care of you. You were very good tonight." Her own composure was slowly returning, and she gazed over the precise marks on the girl's back.

"Thank you." Sabina got up and went to the bed, sighing as she laid down. She put her hands under her head and settled there, legs spread as expected, waiting for the sting of the salve and the cooling rush afterwards. Her back was hot and her nipples were hard and she was already so close that it was an effort not to push down against the mattress.

Patrice slipped onto the bed next to Sabina, letting Alex go and pour them drinks. Whether they were actually drunk much or not wasn't the point, it was the habit and pageantry of it. She worked the salve into Sabina's back carefully but firmly. When the blond was finished she looked up and accepted her drink from Alex, smiling and starting to touch Sabina lazily, beginning with a simple reward.

Sabina moaned wantonly as Patrice touched her. She pressed down against Patrice's hand and spread her legs further apart, letting her know that she appreciated the reward. She fisted her hands into the comforter as her toes curled.

Alex smiled softly at the two women and sipped her drink. She was content, proud of what they had built together. But she also forced herself to think of its brevity, to appreciate every bit of it, every moment as it passed.

Seeing Alex not making a move to join just yet, Patrice continued, pressing a little further with each stroke, working her fingers deeper between the girl's legs. She was getting the exact reaction she had hoped for, and the moans and whimpers were too much to resist.

Sabina squirmed as she tried to get Patrice to push her fingers even further into her. She was panting and trying desperately not to come until Patrice gave her permission, but she couldn't stop herself. She shuddered against Patrice's hand, her muscles clenching and a low whimper escaping from her throat.

Alex laughed lightly. "Oh, Sabina." She wouldn't have had the moment any other way. It would have been too perfect, too surreal. She stepped towards the bed and ran her fingers down the girl's back, pressing into each of the welts as she looked to Patrice. "I think we can dismiss that little transgression, don't you?"

Sabina bit back another whimper as Alex touched her welts, but she couldn't stop herself from pressing into her touch.

Patrice returned the look, "Just this once perhaps." She removed her hand from Sabina and leaned up to kiss Alex, letting the moment hang, the air thick with contentment. She moved an lay on the bed, indulgently pulling Sabina up next to her so she could run her hands through the girl's long hair. The night was far from over, but Patrice wanted to take this moment and stretch it, savor it.

Chapter Text

Therese missed Rome already, but there was something refreshing about coming back to New York. She hadn't meant to stay for so long, but time in Italy was negotiable. A month had turned into two, and before she knew it, it was another year before she was back in the United States. The small differences had really become nothing to her after so many years, but Therese frowned at her cappuccino. It always seemed so difficult to find a decent one right after returning.

Sabina walked into the coffee shop planning to bring something home for Alex. This was one of her favorite coffee shops, but it was out of everybody's way, so she was rarely able to indulge. As her eyes adjusted to the dimmer light of the room, the bottom of her stomach dropped out. Therese... Therese was sitting in the corner.

The brunette blinked in surprise, immediately taken back to sitting in an unfamiliar room in Paris, and the slow realization that the woman she had met wouldn't be coming back. Rather than get the coffee, she turned and fled. Her entire life in New York suddenly felt like it was in jeopardy.

*****

Alex put down her work and took off her glasses. She stretched on the sofa, rubbing her foot across Porcelain's belly and causing the dog to stir. It had been a quiet morning with Patrice tucked away in the home office and Alex doing her work, as she usually did when home on a Saturday, in the living room. She glanced at the clock and got up, going into the office and putting her arms around Patrice from behind. "Isn't Sabina supposed to be home from that study session by now?"

Patrice rubbed her eyes and stretched back against Alex, kissing her cheek, "I think so. Maybe things ran late."

Sabina was still shaking as she opened the apartment door. She looked around the living room and didn't see Alex or Patrice and immediately started to worry. She was nearly frantic by the time that she got to the office and she almost fell into the room.

Alex was about to pull Patrice up, to suggest a break and a light lunch when Sabina stumbled in. Worry seized her immediately when she saw Sabina's expression. She looked to Patrice and then back to Sabina. "Hey..." She went to the girl, followed by Patrice. "Hey, are you okay? What's going on?"

Sabina pressed into Alex and Patrice's arms, needing the contact, needing the security, before she could calm down and explain. She stayed there for what seemed like a long time. "The woman from Paris... Therese... she's here. I saw her in that coffee shop you really like." She looked to Alex, then to Patrice.

Alex furrowed her brow as she stroked Sabina's hair. She tried to make sense of what the girl was saying. "Slow down, Sabina," she said, pulling back a little and glancing to Patrice to see if she had any idea. "The woman from Paris?"

Sabina clung to them, trying to calm down enough to really tell them what had happened. "When in I first started, in Paris, I went to this bar..." She tightened her grip on Patrice's arm. "I met a woman online, and then I went to see her in person at this bar..." She swallowed nervously, "And she was acting completely inappropriately, but I didn't know that then." Her accent was getting thicker as she spoke. "Then Therese showed up and stopped her and she took me away, to the club in Paris... and then she disappeared. I don't know what happened. She was there one minute and then she was gone, and... and... it was so terrible when she left. No one would really have anything to do with me until the two of you came. She must have told everyone to stay away from me or something..."

Alex shook her head, trying to make sense of it all through Sabina's accent. But the name,once Sabina said it again, rang through her mind clearly enough. "Therese?" She gripped Sabina's shoulders. Sabina nodded, completely worn out.

Alex licked her lips lightly as she turned away from the two women and went to the desk. She went through the bottom drawer and found a slim file folder. Out of it, she pulled a picture of her much younger self between Therese and Liz at a vanilla party. She pursed her lips as she passed it to Patrice to show to Sabina. "That woman?"

Sabina took the picture and looked at it, nodded slowly, looking up at Alex, clearly confused.

"She was Liz's mentor." Alex rubbed her head lightly. "And..." She let out a long sigh, realizing now why there had been something of an attitude towards the girl in Paris. "She's part owner of the clubs."

"Liz's mentor?" Sabina looked incredibly worried. If she was in New York, then she would be at the club. And that would mean that she would have to stop going.

"She's been in Rome," Alex said. She went to Sabina and rubbed her shoulder reassuringly. "Look, I'm sure whatever it was...there's a good reason for it."

Sabina nodded, but she wasn't reassured. "She just disappeared..." She shuddered quietly, "There's something wrong with me..."

"Oh Sabina..." Alex hugged her tightly and looked to Patrice, knowing the Sabina would really look to her for comfort.

Patrice had set the picture down and moved to pull the girl into her arms, kissing her hair, "No, of course not." She was still a bit confused, but hated seeing the beautiful young woman so upset. She stroked her hair quietly, quieting her. Sabina turned into Patrice's arms, wrapping her arms around her. She still wasn't feeling much better, but Patrice's arms felt good, comforting.

Sabina nodded, reaching out for Alex and grabbing her hand. She didn't know that she actually wanted Alex to talk to Therese, afraid of what the other woman might say to her, but if she really was close to Liz, if she really was one of the owners of the club, it seemed inevitable.

Chapter Text

Alex could already feel some of the tension of the week melting away as the dessert plates were taken away. The past few weeks had been busy, and she thought having dinner at the club might be a nice release for all three of them. She had called ahead to arrange dinner in the dining room. It took mentioning Liz's name, as they were particularly full that night, but Alex had found out in the process that Therese was there. She had almost completely forgotten the incident with Sabina, but her promise to speak to Therese about it came back to her. And as they were leaving the dining room to have a drink in the lounge, she turned to Patrice, saying casually, "Therese should be here tonight."

Patrice had been enjoying the evening, and was looking forward to more when Alex's comment hit her. Immediately, she felt a sting of anger as she remembered Sabina's panicked expression the last time that name had been mentioned, and how she herself had felt upon being walked out on all those years earlier. She glanced sharply at Alex as Sabina, wide eyed, shifted closer to her, "Have you seen her yet?"

Alex took Patrice's hand and placed it securely on her elbow after kissing her fingers gently. "Not yet...though, it wouldn't surprise me if she was in the lounge." And she was right. As they walked into the lounge--a room with more of a warm elegance then the smaller, sleek bar downstairs--she caught sight of Therese sitting across the room, at the best vantage point, of course. Patrice nodded quietly, almost tensely as they walked in. She was more on edge than she had been during dinner, and glanced around.

There was no way that Therese could miss Alex's entrance, and she looked over the woman that was with her. She hadn't seen Alex since the shooting, and it made her happy to see that she seemed to be doing well. It was only as and afterthought that she looked at the third woman with them, clearly some type of pet. The recognition was instantaneous.

Sabina saw Therese at almost exactly the same moment that Therese noticed her. She instinctively ducked behind Patrice, but she knew that it was too late. Therese had seen her and it was only a mater of time.

Patrice started as Sabina scrambled to hide, and she looked around, immediately sighting the rather elegant older woman looking pointedly at Sabina. Patrice didn't need Alex to point her out, and before the other blond could react, Patrice was striding across the floor, nearly skidding to a stop directly in front of Therese. "May I have a word.." Her voice was already laced with disdain.

"Is there some sort of problem?" Therese raised her eyebrows. She didn't know who this woman was, but she was willing to indulge her, if only for a few moments, due to her obvious relationship with Alex.

Alex opened her mouth, but Patrice was already half way across the room before she could stop her. The blonde seemed to be moving in slow motion, but once she reached Therese, Alex cringed visibly. The feel of Sabina squeezing her hand pulled her back to herself, though.

"May I just go to the rooms?" She really didn't want to have to see whatever was going to happen.

"Of course," Alex replied, still slightly distracted by the sight of Patrice and Therese. She was trying to get her feet to move, and if Sabina wanted to go and hide for a bit, it was one less thing she had to worry about.

Patrice crossed her arms haughtily, lifting her chin. "Yes, I think there is." Her voice raised, "I don't know who you think you are, but you owe an apology, and an explanation." Her eyes were flashing now, and Therese's cool demeanor was only making it worse. Someplace in the back of her mind, she wondered if she was making a mistake, but that bit was still being ignored.

Therese raised her eyebrows. "And to whom do I owe this apology? I find it difficult to believe that I've done something to offend you when we haven't had the pleasure of meeting."

Had Patrice been less upset, she might have taken Therese's calm reaction as a warning sign. She might have stopped, been rational...but none of those things occurred to her and she continued, "You owe it to someone very important to me. Tell me, are you in the habit of walking out on your conquests without so much as an explanation?"

It only took Therese a second to understand who the woman was talking about. She pursed her lips and stood. "You would not do well to pass judgment on situations that you do not understand. I will not discuss this here." She walked toward Alex, whispering fiercely as she passed. "My rooms. Now."

Alex's eyes went wide as a seemingly endless variety of scenarios went through her mind. She grabbed Patrice's arm a little too tightly for comfort and dragged her after Therese. They took a hidden hallway Alex had forgotten about and a narrow service stairway instead of the grand staircase at the center of the club. Clearly, Therese did not want to make an example here, so Alex became even more worried about what was going on. "Please try to keep your mouth shut," she muttered, tone absolutely serious.

Patrice was confused, and still more than a little upset. She tugged at Alex's grip, whispering angrily, and loudly enough that her voice carried through the narrow passages, "What the hell…who does she think she is...Alex...where are we going?" Her ranting was fast, trying to cover for the sneaking sense of unease that was rising in her, that feeling she usually got about five minutes into realizing she had made quite a large mistake.

"For God's sake, Patrice," Alex hissed quietly, "just shut up." She had no doubt that Therese would explain whatever it was. Alex trusted the woman implicitly, but she did not trust Patrice not to make the situation worse that it already seemed to be.

"Don't tell me to shut up Alex. I don't take orders from you." Patrice knew she'd pay for that later, but it had slipped out due to her widely misplaced anger.

Therese flung open the door to her room, pacing to the other side and pouring herself a drink. She knew that Alex would make sure that the door was closed after them. She couldn't care less about Alex and her lover squabbling ad she ignored it completely. "I want it to be very clear that Sabina was not and will never be one of my..." She almost choked on the word. "Conquests."

Alex shut the door quietly, willing to let the argument drop for the moment. She could deal with Patrice later. "Therese, I'm sorry...Patrice was..." She shook her head, almost helplessly.

Patrice noted that the room they had entered made even Liz's pale in comparison, but didn't ponder the ramifications of that long enough for her own good. Instead she snatched her arm away from the other blond and turned on her, "I was what exactly Alex?" Without giving her time to respond, she followed after Therese, "What was she then? Because I can tell you she's more than a little hurt by whatever you thought you were doing." She was gesturing pointlessly at Therese, nearly out of breath.

The older women put her glass down without drinking from it. It rattled against the sideboard, more an indication of Therese's nerves than anything else that might give her away. "She's my great niece. She's my brother's grand-daughter." Therese glared at both of them. "I was protecting her."

Therese had always been the picture of calm, no matter what, and it left Alex on the verge of being shaken to see her that way. When she finally registered the meaning of the older woman's words, her jaw literally dropped.

Patrice was too angry for the words to sink in fast enough, and she continued on her rant, "She doesn't think you were..." She trailed off, her anger quickly replaced by a mix of embarrassment and confusion, "...wait...your what?"

Therese took a deep breath, doing everything she could to calm down. "She is my great niece. If I did her a disservice, it was only in the interest of protecting her." She licked her lips.

Alex ran her palm over her face as if to wipe the surprise away. Di Sassari...she should have known. She should have placed that immediately. But she had been away so long, and she wanted so much to arrange things quickly to surprise Patrice. Finally, she straightened her shoulders and drew in a breath to speak. "She thinks that there's something wrong with her...that she did something." Alex stepped close to Patrice, closer to Therese. "You should have just...told her."

Patrice gaped, letting a small grimace of embarrassment cross her features. Things were becoming clearer...as well as how truly out of line she currently was, and in how illustrious of company. She got the distinct urge to attempt to back out of the room without being noticed...or possibly to play dead. In either case, she went with an obvious first move, addressing Therese in a much quieter tone, "I...I didn't realize...I..." She fell silent, lamely.

Therese merely looked at Patrice for a moment before she turned away. She picked her drink back up, finally taking a sip. "For all I know, Sabina believes that I am dead. Even if I had told her, what reason would she have had to believe me?" She was sure that Sabina had heard nothing positive from her grandfather on the matter, no matter how many years had passed.

In a silent promise that she would explain later, Alex squeezed Patrice's hand. She knew the basic facts of Therese's story, how her brother all but disowned her when she was caught in bed with another woman. "I'm sorry..." she said quietly. "I..." Alex shook her head. "I think, though, it would be best if you talked to her...later." In a more neutral setting.

Therese rubbed her forehead and almost collapsed into a chair. It was rare that she ever showed any weakness, but this night was quickly becoming overwhelming. "How is she?" She felt incredibly vulnerable in that moment, but she hoped that it wasn't obvious to Alex or her partner.

"Confused...right now," Alex said. She was trying to regroup, to pretend that she could ignore Therese's behavior. After so many years, it was a shock to see her like that. "But she's thriving...she's..." Alex smiled. "She's smart and talented..."

"Thank you. Thank you for taking care of her." Therese raised her eyebrows. It was obvious just how much the two women cared for Sabina. She finished collecting herself and turned toward the other woman in the room. "I don't believe that I ever got you name."

Patrice choked, things slowly coming together for her. At least Therese seemed less livid than she had moments earlier, and she was starting to think she might just get away with her earlier actions alive, "Patrice." She would have extended her hand, but didn't think it was the proper gesture. Instead she just lowered her gaze to the floor for a moment.

"It's a pleasure." Therese nodded, making sure to remember the name. "Alex, it's good to see you again. I was relieved when I heard that you returned to New York."

"Thank you," she replied, rubbing Patrice's arm lightly. Alex wasn't sure what was going to happen next, but she knew it would be best to let Therese regain some amount of control. She also knew that with that might come some sort of punishment, no matter how small, for Patrice. "I'm afraid I stayed away from here too long. I apologize."

Therese waved off the apology. "You've no need to apologize to me, Alex." The emotional toll of the night was getting to her and she was certain that she wouldn't be going back to the lounge that night. She stood and briefly disappeared into a second room, and when she returned, she was carrying a bottle of wine. It was a rare vintage from the family stock and not something a casual wine buyer would have access to. She held it out to Alex. "Give this to Sabina, with my apologies, and tell her that I'll explain everything."

"Of course." Alex took it, glancing at the bottle. There would be no argument about whether Sabina could drink it or not. It would be her choice. And if and when Therese wished to speak with her, she would. Alex knew better than to push.

Therese turned her attention back to Patrice. "You seem very nice, if a bit excitable, and I appreciate what you've done for my niece, but if you ever again speak to me that way in my club, you will wish that you had never even known of it's existence." Therese knew her reaction was a bit extreme, but she was too tired to properly punish Patrice, so she had to make sure that her words would convey the proper message.

Patrice shivered and lowered her eyes immediately, "Yes. Yes I'm sorry, it won't happen again." She wanted to convey both her embarrassment and her sincerity, "We won't keep you, I'm sure you have things to attend to tonight."

Inwardly, Alex sighed in relief. She would make sure that Patrice got a proper punishment for the night--it was only fitting, anyway--but she wanted to check on Sabina.

Therese nodded again, accepting Patrice's apology. "Actually, I think I shall be staying in for the night, but the two of you should go and enjoy your evening." She dismissed them with a wave of her hand. Maybe she would call someone in for a massage before she went to bed. Anything to release some of the tension in her shoulders.

Alex nodded, knowing they had been thoroughly dismissed and that they had both gotten off rather light. She knew Therese wasn't above punishing her for Patrice's insolence as well, but that night Therese seemed to need to wrestle with her demons another way. She wondered if she should call Liz or Jonas to go with her. Alex put her hand on the small of Patrice's back and guided her to the door, not really breathing a sigh of relief until it was closed behind them. She led the blonde out into the main hallway but was quiet until they took another small service hallway that was not immediately obvious as an option. "You're lucky we both came out of there without a whipping."

Patrice let Alex lead them away, feeling thoroughly embarrassed at her behavior, "I was getting that impression...I...Alex...God why didn't you stop me?" She knew it was a ridiculous comment, having been in no mood to be deterred earlier, but she was looking for an excuse.

The blonde arched her eyebrows, stopping to give Patrice a pointed look rather than answering the question outright. "We should get this to Sabina," she said finally, lifting the bottle of wine.

Patrice nodded, hoping the girl wasn't too upset at their long absence, and started to move off toward their rooms. Reaching the door, she pushed it open, holding it for Alex.

Sabina looked up when the door opened. She was curled up in one of the armchairs, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, and, a testament to how upset the incident in the lounge had made her, she didn't bother to get up or slide to the floor when Alex and Patrice came in. Alex nudged Patrice forward, knowing the girl would take comfort in Patrice going to her. For her part, she was trying to prepare just what to say.

She took the cue and stepped quietly across to Sabina, sliding her hands comfortingly through the girl's hair. "It's all right," Patrice whispered and reached for the brunette's hand, encouraging her into her arms. "Everything's fine now."

Sabina stood up and wrapped her arms around Patrice, hiding her face in Patrice's shoulder. She nodded, even though she didn't entirely believe the other woman.

"Sabina..." Alex put the bottle of wine on a table, forgetting it for the moment. She went to the two women and kissed Sabina's shoulder from behind. "There are some things you should know about Therese...and why she left. But I want you to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you...it wasn't your fault."

Sabina nodded again. She didn't know what had happened once she left the lounge, and she wasn't sure that she wanted to. She was fine, just so long as Alex and Patrice didn't disappear. "Thank you," she said quietly.

Without tugging the two women apart, Alex guided them back to the chair, Patrice taking cue and sitting. Once Sabina was tucked quietly into the blonde's lap, Alex knelt in front of her and took her heads. "Therese is your great aunt," she said softly. There was no better way Alex could think of than simply being direct. She waited for the girl's reaction, not really knowing what to expect.

"She..." Sabina blinked at Alex, her brow furrowed. Those words didn't even make sense. "But... but that's..." She wanted to say that it was impossible, but when she really thought about it, it knew that it wasn't. She had seen a few old pictures in the villa of her grandfather, his brother, and a young girl. When she had asked who the girl was, her father had only brushed the question aside. She had always assumed that something terrible had happened to her before she had a chance to grow up. "She's..."

Patrice held Sabina a little tighter as the girl trued to make sense of the new information. "Its true, and perhaps she didn't handle it in the best way, but she had her reasons."

"I don't know what you've been told," Alex said, suspecting that Sabina hadn't been told much, if anything. "Or everything that happened with your grandfather and Therese, and...that's for her to tell you. But if you don't want to have anything to do with her, I think she'll understand that. And if you want to talk to her...I think she'd like that." Alex nodded to the bottle of wine. "She sent that."

Sabina looked over at the bottle of wine, her eyes going wide. "Oh..," there was a hint of awe in her voice. "You're sure she sent it for me?" Sabina shook her head. She would have to talk to Therese.

Alex looked to Patrice, half amused at the reaction. She stroked Sabina's cheek thoughtfully. "Mmhm. I think you get a pass when it comes to drinking this one." Alex wasn't sure about the vintage, but it obviously meant something.

Sabina shook her head. "I... I can't." That wasn't the sort of wine that you simply opened with dinner.

Patrice smiled quietly, "I think you'll manage to find an occasion at some point."

Sabina nodded slightly. Therese was her aunt. It just seemed surreal, but the bottle of wine proved it better than anything else could have. The last time she had seen one of those bottles opened was at one of her cousin's weddings. Even then she hadn't been offered a taste. "I'd like to talk to her, to thank her..."

"I think she'd like that...but not tonight," Alex said, trying to sound soothing. Therese, she knew, was in no frame of mind. And she wasn't sure that the older woman would want Sabina to see her like that.

Patrice nodded and shifted, getting up and taking the younger woman with her. She kissed her quietly, "Alex is right I think." She looked at the other blond, "We could go home I suppose if it's been too much or.." she kissed the brunette again, "Or we could stay awhile longer."

"I..." Sabina didn't really know what she wanted to do. "I don't know." She didn't particularly want to leave, but she didn't know that she would be up for much that night. She looked down, feeling like she had disappointed Patrice in some way by not being able to make up her mind.

Alex took Sabina's chin in her hand and gently lifted it. "Why don't we stay here for the night," she suggested, smiling. "If you'd like, you can watch while I punish Patrice." It was a treat that Alex wasn't sure Sabina would be up for just then, but she wanted the girl to know that she had done nothing wrong. "Or we can simply go to bed."

Patrice felt a blush rise at the comment, glancing at Alex quickly. She was well aware she deserved it, and should she be allowed the choice, she was more than happy to have it come from Alex rather than Therese. The blond didn't even want to ponder all of what the older woman might have had at her disposal in that room.

Sabina bit her lip. "I'll watch." She didn't know why Patrice was being punished, but watching didn't require much effort from her.

"Hands against the wall, Patrice," Alex commanded. She went to the bedside table and found a soft blindfold, and when Patrice was in position, she carefully tied it around her head.

The blonde quietly took out a paddle as Sabina curled up on the bed to watch. She smiled to Sabina, thinking for a moment that she might offer it to her. But Alex didn't want Patrice to be able to tell through Sabina's inexperience. Instead, she would offer Sabina a different reward.

After a moment, Alex ran a reassuring hand down Patrice's back. She leaned forward, kissing her shoulder lightly before stepping back and squaring her own shoulders. Then, she began, bringing the paddle down on Patrice's pristine skin.

Patrice let herself take in a sharp breath as Alex started. It had been some time since she'd been on the receiving end of such a punishment and it was taking some control to settle back into the sensation.

Alex didn't spare Patrice much. Mouthing off was one thing, but mouthing off to Therese was entirely another. And had she foreseen what was going to happen, she would have stopped it. Finally, when she thought Patrice couldn't take another hit, she stepped back. "Do you think you've learned your lesson?"

The blonde was past controlling herself, and a few tears were falling from her cheeks. She panted, trying to speak, "Oh...yes...yes Alex..." She took a shuddering breath, "Yes, thank you."

"Of course." Alex kissed her shoulder again and ran her hands up Patrice's arms. She pulled them down but not before retrieving a set of cuffs. "Stay there," she said as she cuffed Patrice's arms behind her back. Alex turned to Sabina, crooking her finger.

Sabina wordlessly slid off of the bed and went over to Alex. She looked up at her, waiting for instruction.

Alex nudged Patrice's legs apart, indicating how wet the blonde had become. She stepped back softly to show Sabina she could do as she liked. But Alex put her finger to her lips, not wanting Patrice to know.

Patrice's breath had been slowing from the punishment's abatement, but quickened again as she allowed her legs to be parted.

Sabina looked Patrice over, trying to figure out just what she wanted to do. She wasn't normally allowed such leeway and she wasn't quite sure what to do with it. She reached down and started rubbing between her thighs, not really with intent, just touching, feeling. Patrice moaned slightly at the soft touch, her tears slowing. She relaxed and let herself enjoy the moment, quietly moving from the pain to pleasure.

Sabina pulled her fingers away, and after briefly looking to Alex for permission, she went over to a chest and pulled out a strap on. She hoped that neither Alex not Patrice would object. It wasn't something that they had ever let her do, but it was something that she had enjoyed before they had met. She slid the tip of the dildo between Patrice's legs, brushing her hips against Patrice's ass.

Alex knew she should have stopped the girl, but her own curiosity and amusement got the better of her. She simply set about quietly undressing herself before Sabina started and settled then on the bed to watch.

Patrice shuddered, pressing back lightly against what she assumed to be Alex, fighting not to fall forward from the pressure. Sabina slowly pushed the dildo into Patrice, wrapping her arms around her. She kissed across Patrice's shoulders and held onto her tightly as she picked up her pace. And Patrice whimpered as she relaxed into the sensation, her mind slowly pondering the height of the kisses, the slight shift in scent. She didn't come to any conclusions as of yet, being too swept up in sensation to pay too much attention.

Sabina reached down and started rubbing Patrice's clit as she pushed the dildo into her. Patrice moaned, wanting to press forward into her fingers and back onto the toy at the same time. Her legs started to shake, and she came slowly, her knees buckling as she sagged slowly forward against the wall.

Sabina held Patrice, helping her stay upright, and nuzzling against her shoulder. She looked back at Alex, trying to figure out what the other woman wanted her to do now.

"You can take her blindfold off and remove the restraints," Alex said lazily from the bed.

Patrice stiffened slightly, hearing Alex speak from across the room, suddenly realizing who had been moving against her. However, she was relaxed, too tired to do anything in that moment.

Sabina untied Patrice's blindfold, then unclipped the restraints. She quickly kissed Patrice's shoulder one last time, then started to remove the strap-on.

Alex smiled and opened her arms to Patrice. "I hope you'll show Therese nothing but the utmost respect from now on," she said softly, running her hands down Patrice's red thighs.

She nodded, calming and leaning into Alex's arms. "Yes Alex, I will." She was speaking the utmost truth, still glad it had been Alex to teach her this lesson instead of Therese herself. However, she made a small mental note to show Sabina that her actions weren't to become a regular indulgence.

Sabina put the strap-on away and walked back over to the bed, kneeling beside it while she waited for instructions. The short scene had helped ground her after the earlier revelations and she was much calmer.

"Come up here, Sabina," Alex said, beckoning her forward. "You did well." She shifted as Patrice tiredly kissed her neck.

Sabina crawled up onto the bed, settling there as Alex kissed her forehead. She yawned, unable to stop herself. It had been a very long night, and she was exhausted. Now that everything seemed settled, she couldn't seem to keep her eyes open.

Chapter Text

Alex crossed her uncrossed her legs and got up from one of the chairs in Patrice's office. She had only been waiting a few minutes, but she hadn't expected Patrice to be in a meeting. Though, from what she gathered from Jacob, whom she had sent on his lunch, neither had Patrice. She paced across to the windows before sitting at Patrice's desk. One of them needed to stop for groceries that night, and Alex wanted to start a list before she completely forgot about it. She opened the middle drawer and found a pen, but paper was proving more difficult. Patrice had no post-its on her desk and nothing in the top drawer, so Alex looked through the other. While she didn't find a pad or even a scrap to write on, she made a much more interesting discovery in finding a set of cuffs. Alex leaned back, dangling them from her fingers as she realized exactly what they were for.

Patrice hurried down the hall, checking her watch. She was late to meet with Alex, and was feeling guilty. She opened the door hurriedly as she spoke, "Sorry, sorry.... people are driving me crazy today, where did you want to..." When Patrice caught sight of Alex looking so amused, she stopped so abruptly that the file sitting on the stack of binders she was carrying flew off and crashed on the floor, papers spilling everywhere. "Alex...what..."

Alex raised her eyebrows at the display as she stood, cuffs still dangling. "Somehow I doubt that these just...found their way into your drawer between the time you left for your meeting and just now." She stepped closer to Patrice, careful not to step on any of the papers that had fluttered to the floor. "You and Sabina have been having a little fun despite my last lesson, haven't you?" She smirked before shaking her head in mock disappointment. Alex glanced to the floor then back up to the blonde's face. "I think you'll want to clean those up before I put these on."

As if seeing Alex calmly pondering her find wasn't already too much for Patrice, at the other woman's comment she felt like she could just melt onto the floor. In truth she very nearly did just that, her mouth dropping open as she wordlessly slipped onto her knees and started pulling the papers together. Life had been busy, and it had been some time since Alex had surprised her so completely. As she got closer to clearing the floor, she felt a growing heat run through her, and her plus start to speed.

Once Patrice was on her feet again, Alex took the folder and binders. "Go and lock the door," she said, tone cool. She enjoyed seeing Patrice so flustered, and the blonde's easy compliance drew her arousal. They had broken the boundaries of doing something like this at work long before, but Alex still clung to caution in the back of her mind. She put the binders on Patrice's desk and leaned against it, crossing her arms as she waited.

Patrice nodded silently and turned, vaguely checking her mind to be sure she didn't have anything right after lunch. The sound of the lock clicking into place sent a shiver down her spine, and she paused half a beat before turning back to Alex. Her breath caught as she took a few hesitating steps toward the other blond, the anticipation almost to the point of discomfort. Someplace in her mind she realized that Alex hadn't even started yet, and that made her shiver yet again.

"I wonder what Donna would say about your...lack of control..." Alex said easily as she shifted the cuffs from one hand to the other. She didn't move just yet, content to see Patrice waiting, to watch her anticipation build. The blonde's eyes were already dark with desire, and Alex could not help but lick her lips at that.

Patrice was nearly panting, eyes following the cuffs in Alex's hands. With Donna, or even Liz in that moment she would have remained silent, but Alex was different even when she was in control. "She wouldn't say anything, she'd do something about it." Patrice felt her color rise, and she shifted, looking Alex in the eye.

The blonde didn't rise to the challenge immediately, knowing that was what Patrice wanted. She could imagine what Liz would do, what Donna would do. It would have been best, she thought, to make Patrice wait, but Alex was feeling selfish. Finally, she got up and sauntered over to the blonde, steps controlled. And after a long moment and a hard stare, Alex slapped her cheek. It was hardly hard enough to leave a bruise, but she knew Patrice wouldn't be expecting it. "Turn around."

"Oh...." Patrice had been staring back into Alex's eyes and was caught completely off-guard, but the swiftness of the move and Alex's unyielding gaze so full of intent made her moan. Her hands twitched to grab Alex, but she controlled herself just enough to do as she was told, breath still growing faster by the minute.

With a sure touch, Alex cuffed Patrice's hands together and shoved the blonde to her knees, controlling the fall by grabbing Patrice's hair. Once Patrice was down, Alex finished pulling her updo down and stepped in front of her. She pulled a chair over and sat. "Now," she began as she parted her legs and pushed her skirt up before pushing her own panties aside, "just how many times have you and Sabina indulged?" She began to touch herself lightly.

Patrice had barely gotten her bearings when Alex questioned her, and she was in no way ready to answer anything in that moment. "I...a few times." She was watching Alex intently, and squirmed against the cuffs, wanting to touch the other blond so badly.

"A few times?" she repeated, arching her eyebrows and leaning back to allow Patrice a better view. She was wet, wanting, and she knew the blonde would see that. "And what exactly is a few times?" Alex leaned forward for a moment to nudge Patrice's knees apart with the toe of her pump.

Patrice whimpered, and let Alex part her legs, "God...Alex...I don't know...4...5..?" She was beyond counting at that point, and leaned involuntarily toward the other blond, biting her lip.

"Mm." Alex was unimpressed. She continued to touch herself quickly, pushing herself to the edge until she shuddered quietly with her orgasm. "I'll be working late tonight." She pressed the toe of her pump between Patrice's legs for a brief moment before standing and pulling the blonde up by the back of her neck. Alex unlocked the cuffs and found her purse, tucking them into it. "I'll expect you at my office around five."

Patrice had been watching, breath quickening, not bothering to hold back a few quiet whimpers. When Alex turned to leave, however, she groaned with need and took a few quick steps after her. She was well aware there would be retribution for it but she couldn't help herself as she slid up behind Alex and pulled her back, kissing her neck before letting her continue. "That was mean." She looked at the other woman heatedly before more quietly concluding, "I'll be there."

"I know you will," Alex said before turning around. She gave Patrice a soft kiss. There was no anger in it; in fact, she was incredibly eager to see the blonde that night when the office was quiet.

*****

Patrice couldn't wait, she left the office early, and was knocking on Alex's door at exactly 5:00. Since lunch she couldn't manage to focus, and just watched the time go by slowly, only half doing any work. As she stood at the door, she only vaguely noted that Alex's assistant had already gone for the day.

"Yes," Alex called from inside as if she had no idea who might be there. She was sitting at her desk, legs crossed and glasses on. For her part, she had gotten a surprising amount done that afternoon in anticipation of the evening. "Patrice," Alex said as the blonde opened the door. She only looked up for a moment before waving Patrice in as she went back to her work.

Patrice licked her lips as she stepped into the room, trying to look casual. She noted Alex's apparent calm, and simply took a seat across from her desk, content to try and wait until the other blond was ready to tell her otherwise.

"Oh, no, you can lock the door and come over here," Alex said without looking up. It was difficult to keep a smirk off of her face. The blonde pushed her chair back and reached into one of drawers, producing the cuffs. She used her finger to indicate that Patrice should turn, and once she did, Alex cuffed her hands again. "Underneath the desk."

Her mouth fell open slightly at the command, looking levelly at Alex for a moment before deciding it wasn't an entirely bad idea, and crawling under as ordered. She tried to get settled, to keep her balance with her hands behind her. Patrice was gaining a new appreciation for Sabina's flexibility.

Alex pushed back up to her desk, but she didn't cross her legs this time. She had no doubt, as she parted them, Patrice would know what to do once she saw that Alex had already removed her panties.

Patrice moaned slightly, hoping Alex didn't notice. In attempt to keep her from thinking too much about it, she leaned forward and pressed her head between the other blond's slender legs, licking her intently.

Sighing softly, Alex allowed herself to finally smile. She shuffled through some papers on her desk, then opened her laptop. There was nothing pressing that she needed to do. In fact, she was simply updating notes on her calendar, which was all she could manage with Patrice there.

Patrice was settling in, knowing all to well what Alex was playing at. She pulled back slightly, kissing the blonde's thighs. Alex licked her lips as she raised her eyebrows. She stopped typing, lowering one of her hands and tightening her fingers in Patrice's hair as a warning. If Patrice wanted to be playful, she would enjoy making her face the consequences. Patrice smiled and closed her eyes at the contact, leaning in to nip at Alex's leg before returning to her former task, this time with more speed.

"I think you might be enjoying yourself too much," Alex said softly. She gave up all pretense of working and settled into the touch, keeping her hand in Patrice's hair. She was close but content to prolong it.

"Mmmmmnn..." Patrice groaned indulgently as she touched Alex, already on edge herself, pressing her legs together in attempt to restrain herself

A soft moan escaped Alex's lips as she slowly began to come. She arched slightly, warmth washing over her, making her shudder. She relaxed her fingers, finally settling as she began to lazily stroke Patrice's hair. "You're incorrigible."

Patrice smiled, pressing her lips slowly along Alex's skin, working down her thighs. She spoke quietly, but couldn't keep the want out of her voice, "mmmn... I do my best." No matter how long they were together, she never got tired of hearing Alex's voice in those tones.

"And you're best is...mmm." She took Patrice's chin in her hand and ran her thumb over the blonde's lip. "Now, what on earth should I do with you now that you've been so good today but so...mmm terrible with Sabina lately." Patrice wasn't about to answer that, finding the anticipation infinitely more erotic. She glanced up at Alex from her place under the desk, pressing her lips to the other blonde's palm as she did so.

"Up," Alex said as she pulled her hand away. She was smirking watching Patrice find her balance and get to her feet. She wondered just how long she kept Sabina underneath her desk, just how many orgasms she had enjoyed that way. Over the desk," she said as Patrice finally stood.

Patrice did as she was told, quite willingly. Leaning down gently, pulse racing. Alex unzipped Patrice's skirt and pushed it, along with the blonde's panties, down around her ankles. She licked her lips at how wet Patrice already was, always surprised, always thrilled to see that. "Mm, I suppose you're lucky I don't keep a strap-on in my drawer."

Patrice groaned, not sure if that would make her more aroused or not. Just Alex touching her...in any way would be enough at the moment. The blonde leaned down and nipped at Patrice's earlobe before whispering, "You look very...pretty like this, Patrice." She ran her fingertips up Patrice's thigh before sitting back in her chair, going back to her computer.

Patrice groaned audibly, going from arousal to frustration. Since her time with Donna had ended, she was less and less used to being denied, and she was hoping it wouldn't become a habit for Alex. She was mere seconds away from outright begging, but hoped it wouldn't come to that.

As she continued her work, Alex bit back a chuckle at Patrice's shifting, at the desire she knew was building painfully. From time to time, for the better part of twenty minutes, she reached up, pressing her fingers between Patrice's legs and toying with her clit for mere moments. Finally, she stood, slipping out of her own skirt and opening another drawer. A quick trip home after her "lunch" with Patrice had been in order. She was smirking as she buckled the harness in place and adjusted the dildo.

Patrice tried to look around to see what was happening, and upon seeing Alex so adorned, whimpered more than quietly, "God...Alex...." She was about to question where the hell she had gotten the toy, but was far past that and settled for something simpler, "Please..." Alex nodded as she ran her hands under Patrice's shirt. She pushed into her slowly, easily with how wet the blonde was. And she moaned at simply being in that moment.

"Ohh....." Patrice spread her legs wider to accommodate Alex's push. Her cheek was flat against the desk, and she could feel her sweat and breath mingling, dampening her skin.

"You're beautiful," Alex murmured, losing herself in the moment. She thrust harder but still slow, wanting to hear Patrice's moans, to push her to the edge. Patrice didn't disappoint, the entire day turning to this moment. All the anticipation, the arousal, began to crash down on her, and she pushed back against Alex, groaning and shuddering.

"That's it," Alex moaned, no longer interested in denying Patrice. She continued to thrust, pushing Patrice through her orgasm and afterwards pulling her up, holding her, chest pressed against her back, close.

Patrice breathed deeply, "God....Alex...." She calmed slowly, pressing back against the other blond.

Finally, Alex stilled and held Patrice close. Her own heartbeat was loud in her ears as her breath began to calm. She kissed Patrice's hair, then nuzzled it aside to kiss her neck, tasting her salty skin. "Mm, have you learned your lesson?" she asked breathlessly, not allowing herself to break into a smile just yet.

Patrice couldn't help a slight smile, glad she was facing away from Alex. She pondered the potential benefits of either answer before speaking, "Yes...yes Alex."

Alex smiled, then, lips curling up against Patrice's skin. Reluctantly she pulled away and slipped out of the harness before turning Patrice gently and pulling her into a kiss, thanking her silently for indulging her. Patrice returned the kiss and then started smoothing her clothes back into place. "Are you ready to go home?"

After pulling her skirt on, Alex smoothed her hair in an attempt to make herself look more presentable. "Yes, absolutely," she replied, trying to hold back a satisfied smile.

Patrice kissed Alex lightly and waited while the other blond packed up for the night. She was sanguine, satisfied, and looking forward to a quiet night in. She had come to enjoy how their relationship could range from one moment to the next, and how well they could read each other's needs.

With everything packed away, even the toy, Alex shouldered her back and wrapped her arm lightly around Patrice's waist. As they got in the elevator, her mind was clearing, and she was running through their schedules. Sabina had an evening class that night, so she would have just been getting home before them. "Why don't we pick up something from that little Chinese place Sabina likes?" she suggested as she doors closed. She was pleasantly tired and looked forward to enjoying the rest of the evening.

Chapter Text

The invite hadn't been difficult to get, not for Lara anyway. She had heard about the place through a few of the more traveled people at the bars she frequented, and paid enough attention to know who might extend the proper introductions. Having been sent by one of her more wealthy clients to New York for the week for an easy assignment, Lara had made other arrangements for her extra time.

She stood just a little too close to Nathalie in the elevator, making sure that the girl could feel her presence, control even when dutifully facing the doors. The girl was young and pretty enough, and even more importantly, seemed already hopelessly smitten with Lara....just the way she liked them.

The doors opened and Lara took the card from her pocket she had been told would grant her admission, smiling charmingly as she shrugged out off her long coat, revealing a form-fitted cocktail dress that hid very little. She turned to see Nathalie hesitating to hand over her coat....she had only her lingerie and a collar, one that Lara had hastily found for her, on underneath. Lara flicked a strand of jet-black hair over her shoulder as she stepped up to the girl and snatched the coat the rest of the way off. She glared and tugged her forward by the collar with the other hand, snapping at her, "Stop that. Don't embarrass me tonight, or you'll regret it."

Nathalie shivered and immediately tried to fight the urge to cover herself with her arms. She nodded almost violently, not even wanting to know how Lara would make her regret it. She thought she was so lucky to have gotten this invite from such an absolutely stunning woman, and she didn't want anything to ruin that. Lara wanted her to be flawless, she could tell. And just then, she was doing everything she could not to trip as the taller woman walked them into the lounge area.

Lara coolly looked over the crowd, as if she'd been a regular for years. In reality, the Club was far nicer than the places she went in Paris, not having been offered membership in that city's location, though she couldn't imagine why not. She moved her fingers from Nathalie's collar to her hair, gripping it tightly, and then pushing her toward the bar. "Get me a drink." When you girl stumbled off, she crossed her arms and stalked across the room to a couch on the far side, deciding what she was in the mood for...or whom.

The girl scurried away, eyes darting this way and that. She barely had time to think, though, let alone take in the entire scene. Once at the ornate bar, she took a breath and made sure to order Lara's drink just the way the dark eyed woman had the night before. She didn't want to get it wrong, and she was fairly convinced that this was maybe some sort of test, that Lara would be impressed with her when she did get it right. Nathalie fidgeted as she waited, moving her weight from one foot to the other. Lara was probably the most elegant and scarily pretty woman she had ever laid eyes on. Even though she had been with her all day, as she took the drink back to her she was struck by her beauty. Nathalie was so struck, in fact, that she forgot to kneel when she presented it.

Lara had been watching the stage quietly, hoping there would be some decent entertainment that evening. If there wasn't she would see about providing some. When Nathalie returned she slowly looked at her, raising an eyebrow as the girl stood there holding out the glass. From it's appearance, she could tell that the brunette had been watching her obsessively, and she knew the drink itself was perfect.

However Lara didn't move to take it, and instead gazed unblinkingly at the girl, rising slowly from the couch and elegantly standing to her full height, leering over the other woman. She gave Nathalie a few seconds to correct herself, but when this failed to occur Lara took the glass and slowly poured it out onto the floor at the girl's feet, her eyes never moving from Nathalie's face. Without hesitation, Lara then grasped the girl by the hair and forced her roughly to the ground in the pool of liquid. "Manners...." She hissed, and calmly looked around for a waiter.

Nathalie's face fell, and it was everything she could do not to let tears spill from her eyes as her knees hit the cold liquid. She thought she had done everything so well. She looked up to search Lara's face for the answers, but upon meeting those dark eyes she dropped her gaze immediately. A cold shiver went through her as she drew in a shaking breath. There was something terrifying about that hard look, terrifying and alluring. She bit her lip as a waiter appeared. "Was there a problem with your drink, miss?"

Jonas watched the scene unfold with a seemingly disinterested eye, but truthfully his attention was rapt. There was something about the dynamic that seemed off to him, particularly as he had never seen either of the women at the club before. He ran a hand over Thomas' neck and leaned down to whisper to the boy, "Be a dear and go get Therese. I have a feeling she'll want to know about this." Thomas nodded and stood, walking calmly to a side hallway and disappearing.

"No, just a matter of decorum, I'll have the same thank you." Lara offered him a ingratiating smile, not wanting to alienate the management on account of Nathalie's lack of discipline. When he left, she turned back to the girl on the floor, reaching to push her bra straps off her shoulders. That done, she leaned back and casually pressed the garment down the girl's stomach with the toe of her shoe. Nathalie had beautiful skin, and she wanted to show it off, along with her dominance. Besides, most of the marks from their first night together had faded...though a few pale bruises around her wrists and waist still remained.

The girl shivered once again and looked around as if she were surprised by the treatment. Her nipples were already taut, and her throat was tight from jagged breaths. Judging from the night before, though, she knew that this was hardly going to be her only punishment for failing to respond in time, for forgetting to kneel.

Lara didn't appreciate her lack of attention, loss of focus, and reached out and soundly slapped the girl across the cheek, "pay attention," she snarled, and followed the slap up with a tug to the girl's collar, dragging her closer. Lara started to run her fingers over Nathalie's skin, the remaining marks starting to pique her attention.

"I'm sorry," Nathalie gasped quietly, body responding even under the rough treatment. She looked at Lara pleadingly, wanting to know how she could do better.

Lara brushed her fingers over the girl's breast, pinching a nipple sharply as she glanced over the room, almost casually. She wondered who she might talk to about using the stage later. Nathalie bit her lip after the cry came out, and she swallowed down a whimper. The last thing she wanted was for Lara to send her home.

Jonas sucked in a sharp breath at the treatment and wondered just what was taking Therese so long. He'd hate to have to do anything himself.

Alex raised her eyebrow and leaned forward as she sipped her drink. She put a firm hand on Sabina's shoulder, knowing the girl was watching too, but Patrice had excused herself to the powder room for the moment. She wondered who the tall, dark haired woman was. She had certainly never seen her before. And the woman's pet looked more terrified than delighted as she cried out when the woman touched her nipple.

At the noise, Lara didn't release the girl's flesh, but instead leaned to whisper harshly in her ear, "Shut up, or I'll find someone more deserving." She sat back, moving to the other breast, feeling the attention of many of the patrons on her, and reveling in the interest. Lara scanned the crowd, eyes pausing on Sabina, thinking she looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn't place the girl exactly.

Sabina pressed back into Alex's touch. The woman had looked familiar when she had walked in, but now she remembered just from where she knew her. That was the woman that Therese had rescued her from, a woman that she had hoped never to see again. She looked up at Alex pleadingly. "Can we go back to your rooms, please." Normally when they were in the lounge, she wouldn't speak unless address, but she desperately wanted to get away before things escalated.

Alex furrowed her brow and glanced back at the woman, trying to place her. But she couldn't. She looked up to Patrice as she came back to sit down. "Something's wrong," she said, nodding to Sabina before catching sight of Therese entering the room.

Patrice glanced around worriedly as Sabina tried desperately to tuck herself between her and the back of the couch. The movement was so unexpected, the blond was at a loss, and just reached to try and comfort the girl.

Therese sent Thomas back over to Jonas, immediately seeing what the problem was. She narrowed her eyes. Someone would pay for even letting that woman into her club. She didn't bother with pretenses as she headed straight toward Lara and whoever was unfortunate enough to be with her that night. She stopped a foot away and looked down. "You're not welcome here."

If Alex was considering granting Sabina's request before, she certainly had forgotten that now. She sat up straighter to listen--though it wasn't hard as the room had fallen silent. Sabina, she noted, had scrambled to the other side of Patrice and was practically hiding behind the blonde's legs.

Lara looked over as Therese approached, and stood, using her stature to force the older woman to instead look up at her. Lara couldn't believe the woman was still harboring animus from....in that moment she knew where she had seen the girl before and cast a trademark glare in her direction, noting with a scoff as the girl fled further behind a blond woman who she assumed to be her mistress. At least someone was going to afford her proper deference that night.

Lara looked back passively at Therese, "I was invited, I just came for a drink on my night off in the City. May I ask why I'm suddenly no longer welcome?" Lara didn't question Therese's authority to make the directive, that much was clear, but her reasoning she took issue with.

"Because this is my club." And you almost hurt my family. Therese left that part unspoken, but she glanced over at Sabina to make sure that she was all right. She cared deeply about her family, and any damage Lara might have done, had she been given the chance, counted against her. "I don't believe I need a reason beyond that."

Lara crossed her arms, believing at once that this was Nathalie's fault, just as her last confrontation had been on account of Sabina's weakness. "If it's her consent to the discipline you're worried about, don't be...she's here of her own free will," Lara directed the comment over her shoulder at the brunette, "aren't you?"

"Y-yes, of course!" Nathalie half got up but thought better and sank back to her knees. She looked up to Lara adoringly.

"I could not care less about what the girl has or has not consented to. My problem is not with her, it is with you. Leave now or I will have you removed." Therese glared at Lara, not at all intimidated by her.

Donna wasn't originally planning on going to the club that night, but a last minute whim changed her mind. When she walked into the lounge, she was completely unprepared for what she saw: Therese and a taller woman staring each other down while a younger woman knelt in a pool of liquid at their feet. The entire room was watching and the tension was thick. She stepped to the side of the door and wait to see just what was going on.

Lara's gaze didn't waiver, and for her the rest of the room had long faded out. She knew implicitly that it wasn't a fight she was going to win, but she didn't take well to insults, and had yet to meet someone stronger than she was. Her confidence boiled over, and she had the audacity to laugh in the older woman's face, "I'd enjoy watching you try... or will you be stepping back and having some hired muscle do it? I'm sure you wouldn't want to risk straining something in front of all these customers."

Without thinking, Therese reached out and slapped the other woman. "You will not speak to me that way." She grabbed Lara's arm in a grip that was surprisingly strong for a woman her age, fully prepared to drag her from the club herself.

Alex drew in a sharp breath. She knew someone needed to intervene, and she looked to Jonas, not sure why she was expecting him to be doing something about it. But it wasn't her place, and she knew better than to get in the older woman's way. She put her hand on Patrice's knee and watched. The woman's pet, Alex noted, cowered, her knees, probably almost numb with the cold liquid and how still she was holding on the hard floor.

Therese barely got three steps before Donna interjected herself. She still didn't know exactly what was going on but someone had to get involved. She put a light hand on Therese's shoulder, just enough to get her attention, and she ignored the sharp glare thrown her way. "I think you've made your point. And I think someone else might benefit from your attention." She looked back at Nathalie. "Why don't you let me see this... lady out?" Therese only pursed her lips before letting go of Lara's arm.

Lara had long forgotten about Nathalie, and cast a nearly disappointed glare at Therese as she stepped away, then turned her attention to the woman who had suddenly appeared. She was still worked up from the confrontation, and glared down at Donna, noting her almost eerie composure in contrast to Therese's loss of control. Lara was intrigued, but she was still on the defensive, "And who the hell are you supposed to be?"

"I'll give you my name when you deserve to know it." She didn't give Lara time to protest before she grabbed the arm that Therese had just let go of and pulled her back toward the private rooms.

Alex realized that Patrice's fingers were clenched around her lower arm, and when she looked down, the blonde's knuckles were white. Patrice's gaze was fixed on Donna; there were very few times that she had seen her that calm, and none of those times had been good. That low, sure voice hid an almost terrifying strength.

Lara was caught off guard, expecting to be pushed toward the door, if they managed to move her at all. Donna's strength was nearly exhilarating, and the younger woman found herself almost blindly pulled through back corridors, tripping in her heels after the brunette. Finally, Donna shoved her through a doorway, and Lara heard the door slam behind her and the lock thrown into place.

The dark haired woman regained her footing, straightening and turning on Donna, adrenaline still coursing though her veins. She yanked her wrist free and shoved the older woman away roughly, acting on base instinct. Not even Elise had ever been so bold as to push her around so physically. Lara panted, glaring venomously, "You sure as hell better be able to back that up. You just cost me a new pet." Her mind was reeling, part of her begging that Donna would do just that.

Donna quickly regained her balance. "I didn't cost you anything and the sooner you realize that, the better we'll get along." Donna didn't bother pulling out leather cuffs, doubting that Lara would give her the opportunity to buckle them, and instead pulled out a pair of standard issue handcuffs. It only took her a second to spin the taller woman around and have her hands behind her back and cuffed together.

Lara winced at the bite of the metal, mind immediately taking more notice. She pulled against Donna, digging the cuffs into her skin in attempt to turn back and face her. Lara's pulse was rising again, not having met anyone with even a fraction of the strength or ability to treat her in such a manner. However, she wasn't nearly ready to just give in, she was past that...it hadn't lived up to expectation. "Who says I'm interested in getting along with you?" She spat the words over her shoulder, voice tinged with contempt.

Donna wasn't about to let Lara hurt herself pulling on the cuffs. Rather than answer her, she simply pushed her knees out from under her and laid her on the floor. She was, in that moment, glad that the club had a gym and that she had resumed her routine since moving from DC. She kept a knee in the center of Lara's back. "Clearly you're interested in something. I never thought that it involved getting along with anyone though. You've already proven that you're beyond that."

Lara found the breath knocked out of her as she hit the floor, and couldn't help coughing a few times, needing a moment to realize what had just happened. She kicked her feet, trying to twist away, but her efforts were surprisingly ineffective. Donna's actions were starting to cause her mind to race, wildly considering the implications, but she shoved those thoughts away and just yelled defensively instead, "What makes you think you can speak to me like that!" She continued to kick, trying not to consider that the answer to her statement was blatantly obvious, "Get off! Don't touch me!"

"Fine." Donna let her go and got up, leaving her hands cuffed and not helping her stand, if that's what she wanted to do. "But if you walk out of that door, Therese will make sure that you're never allowed in any club in any city where she knows anyone." She didn't think that it was a idle threat, but it was a bit of a bluff.

Lara panted on the floor, mind immediately aching for Donna's rough touch once it was removed. She felt the hope that had been rising in her crash, believing that yet another person was stepping back in the face of her demons. She struggled to her knees, but didn't make for the door, or turn to ask to be unbound. Instead she just stared at Donna impassively, as she once would have at Elise, "I couldn't care less about any clubs, here or anywhere else. I'll go if that's all that's keeping me here then." She wasn't sure at all how things might go after her next comment, but said it anyway, "I'm sure you'd rather I left anyway, you probably have some simpering girl waiting for you out there."

Donna walked over and squatted down in front of Lara, taking her chin in her hand and holding her gaze. She ignored the second half of Lara's comments, preferring to focus on the first. "So, what do you care about?" She was searching Lara's face, looking for any sort of clue, and sort of crack that would let her in.

Lara for the first time since she could remember felt the urge to look away from another's stare. She controlled herself, "Nothing. Not anymore." That, she realized, was more than she had ever given Elise...then again...Elise never knew what to ask.

"Then why are you here?" If Lara truely didn't care about anything, then she wouldn't have any reason to get so mad so easily. She recognized bullshit when she heard it.

Lara's mind started to panic, no one asked her such things so plainly...ever. She was prepared to be beat, whipped, worse... but not to sit around talking, especially with someone she just met. Lara's face fell a little and she just shrugged.

Donna got up and pulled the keys to the handcuffs out of her pocket. It only took a second to get them off. "You can go." Lara choked back a remark, and to her surprise, a small lump in her throat. She moved quickly to the exit, pausing to give Donna another empty stare before opening the door.

There was something in that stare that worried Donna and she pursed her lips. "Lara, if you can find a better attitude, I'll be here tomorrow night." She held her gaze for a long minute. "And for your information, I don't do simpering." Lara felt herself quicken, and was half surprised to feel herself nod slightly as she left.

As soon as the door closed behind Lara, Donna let out a breath. She rubbed her forehead and walked back out to the lounge. She would need to talk to Therese, and she would need to find out more about just whom it was she was dealing with.

Chapter Text

It all happened so fast that Nathalie didn't even realize she was alone until she felt the spilled drink seeping into her shoes. She bit her lip, almost scared to look up, to face the eyes that she could feel on her. She didn't know what to do. She thought it was going to be such an amazing night, that she was so lucky to be taken anywhere by someone as stunning as Lara. But now she was alone, on the floor, and sitting in the middle of a puddle. It was an effort not to cry, and she was losing the battle.

Jonas had gone after Therese, and Alex was still watching the hallway where Donna and the stranger had disappeared, half expecting the dark haired woman to come storming out at any moment. She took a deep breath and looked toward Patrice, wanting to make sure Sabina was all right. Patrice was still reeling from all that had just transpired in front of her. However, when Donna disappeared with the new woman, and Therese turned and seemed to vanish into a hallway to the other side, Patrice noticed the young woman on the floor again. She felt Sabina still hiding behind her, but stood anyway, glancing to see the girl crawl onto Alex's lap, still shaking slightly.

Patrice stepped quietly over to the crying brunette, and touched her shoulder gently, "It's ok, come with me." She didn't know how the girl might react, but wouldn't let her stay there any longer.

Nathalie looked up and stilled her shaking bottom lip. She rose, reaching out to Patrice, instinctively responding to the kindness she heard in the blonde's voice.

Patrice let the girl fall into her arms, then walked her back to where Alex and Sabina still sat. There was plenty she wanted to know, but the girl's comfort came first at that moment. "Sabina, be a good girl and take her to get cleaned up?" There was a shower attached to their suite, and the quiet might let both of them regain some composure. Besides, having Sabina take her wouldn't seem imposing to the girl.

"Of course." Sabina nodded and held a hand out to Nathalie, smiling reassuringly. She knew that no matter how things went with Donna, Therese, Alex and Patrice would protect her from Lara. And while she had been startled and shaken when Lara first came in, she wasn't sure she even still needed protecting from the other woman. She wasn't a scared child anymore and she wouldn't be intimidated so easily anymore. Secure in that knowledge, she led Nathalie toward their rooms and a hot shower.

Alex stood and pushed her fingers through her hair. "Let's...get a couple of drinks and give them a moment," she said after taking a breath. "I'd like to know what's going on, but I'm not sure we're going to get any answers tonight. And I don't have the heart to ask Sabina."

Patrice nodded and stood, the night was already a little beyond her, and her mind kept wandering to the taller woman's anger crashing against Donna's cool response. She shivered a little imagining what was taking place behind closed doors. Seeing Patrice shiver, Alex wrapped an arm around her, almost protectively. She had never seen Therese react so violently to anything, and the upset in the balance of the club left her wary and on edge. "You're a good person," she said quietly, kissing Patrice's cheek before moving towards the bar.

"I..." Nathalie began when she and Sabina were alone. "Uhm...I'm Nathalie," she finished. She had been trying to think of what she would say the whole way there, but none of it stuck. Now that they were alone, she felt tired and like she simply needed to curl up and cry. The whole thing was confusing, but the small kindness made her feel better.

"Sabina," she said simply. She held Nathalie's hand while she turned the shower on. Once it was warm enough, she let go. "You'll feel better after a shower. I know that Lara can be... frightening." She smiled reassuringly. "Would you like some company?"

Nathalie nodded, removing her clothes without thinking before stepping into the warm water. She let it wash over her, only feeling it after a long moment. She was still trying to make things make sense, and it all hadn't caught up to her yet. "Wait you...you know Lara?" She turned to Sabina and blinked.

Sabina took off her collar then followed Nathalie into the shower and nodded. "I met her in Paris a few years ago." She found the shampoo and started lathering it in her hands before she started washing Nathalie's hair.

Finally, Nathalie let go. She leaned into Sabina's gentle touch and simply let her tears fall freely. "I...though..." she began, words choked, "I was so...lucky... She's...pretty...and...and..." She sniffed.

"Oh.." Sabina was surprised to find Nathalie in her arms, but she tightened them about her and held her close. "It's okay. Everything is going to be okay. Lara's really good fooling people."

The girl merely sniffed. Maybe she had wanted to be fooled. She wondered why she couldn't find anyone like the pretty blondes who were with Sabina, who seemed so kind. "Oh..."

Sabina wiped Nathalie's eyes and nose, then started rinsing her hair. "We should get you clean before Alex and Patrice wonder what's taking so long."

"They're your...mistresses?" Nathalie asked, still gulping in breaths and trying to calm herself. Sabina's fingers felt good in her hair, and she was letting that calm her. "Lucky..."

"Very lucky." Once her hair was clean, Sabina started bathing Nathalie. She knew how good a wash cloth could feel when someone else was using it on you and she lingered over it, trying to make Nathalie feel better.

"Uhm..." Nathalie looked at the other girl, finally realizing how beautiful she was. She couldn't help a small blush as her body caught up to her thoughts and responded. "Th-thanks... I...thanks."

Sabina kissed her very lightly before pulling away. "You're welcome." She rinsed off quickly then turned the water off. "Do you want a robe or something?" She didn't know that Nathalie would want to return to the common room naked after everything that had happened. Sabina handed her a towel as she dried herself off and replaced her collar.

"Are they gonna send me home?" she asked, pausing in the middle of drying herself off. Her eyes were wide thinking about it. Even without Lara, this club was the height of the Scene in New York, and she didn't want her night to end there.

"I..." Sabina frowned slightly. She wasn't sure exactly what Patrice or Alex might have in mind for the girl. "I don't know. I can talk to Therese for you..." She hadn't claimed any sort of special privilege from her aunt and she didn't know how it would be received, but she would do it if Nathalie wanted. She didn't question why she was suddenly willing.

Sabina took Nathalie's hand again, leading her back out into the lounge and looking for Patrice and Alex. It only took her a minute to find them and she headed over to their couch. Once she was there, she let go of Nathalie's hand and sank to her knees at their feet.

Nathalie watched Sabina and after a moment quickly followed. She didn't want to press her luck, but she couldn't help but look up at the two blondes.

Patrice tried to maintain her calm when the girls returned. They had both had quite a night already and she didn't want to add to it by making their new acquaintance any more nervous. However, she couldn't help a slight smile at them both there. Sabina was getting downright elegant in her movements, but being next to someone so obviously green enhanced her even more. She caught the other girl's eyes as she looked up, trying to be at least a little formal for the girl's benefit. "That's much better. Your name?" She rewarded Sabina with a gentle touch as she waited for an answer.

She watched the touch almost with awe. "Nathalie..." She said after swallowing a few times and finally added, "uhm, ma'am." Lara's dominance had been clear from the moment Nathalie met her, but there was something different, more subtle about this woman. She licked her lips in anticipation.

Alex chuckled lightly and finished her drink. "Just for tonight," she said sternly to Patrice, as well as Sabina. The girl was eager enough, and she seemed much recovered. But Alex knew they couldn't really take on another girl.

"Patrice is fine." The blonde smiled at Nathalie's nervousness. To comfort her she ran her fingers through the girl's still damp hair.

Sabina quietly let out a relieved breath, glad that they weren't considering immediately sending Nathalie away. She looked up at them gratefully, hoping that they would let her properly thank them later.

After a moment, Alex put her arm around Patrice's waist. "Mm, why don't we have a seat?" She drew Nathalie up, expecting Sabina to follow, and lead them across the room to a more remote sofa. The excitement had left Alex wanting nothing but quiet, and she was content to let Nathalie enjoy that with them. "I can speak to Therese tomorrow," she said to Patrice once they sat.

Patrice nodded, leaning into Alex and letting out a long breath. The girls settled onto the floor again, and she was already making plans to make sure Nathalie got home safely that night. She had much more to learn, but not tonight.

Nathalie bit her lip, glad they weren't sending her away. She glanced up at the women before cutting her eyes to watch Sabina. The girl seemed so poised and elegant--she wondered if that was what Lara had wanted, and she shivered lightly.

Sabina could sense that Alex and Patrice weren't going to be interested in anything too strenuous or unusual that night and she settled against Alex's leg, allowing herself to relax. She smiled slightly at Nathalie when she caught the girl looking at her and rested her head on Alex's thigh. Thanks to the shower, she would have no problem falling asleep there if they left her alone for long enough and she was perfectly content with that, tuning out the activity in the rest of the lounge and focusing on the area around their seats.

Chapter Text

It hadn't taken much, some information from Therese, a few internet searches and a little deductive reasoning for Donna to figure out at least some of what Lara's problem was, and knowing that, she was more prepared for their second confrontation.

Thomas tapped on Donna's door when Lara got into the elevator, letting her know that the woman was arriving. It had been part of her agreement with Therese for letting her come back to the club a second time. She was waiting in the entrance when the elevator doors opened.

Lara hadn't slept, and barely ate, pacing through the city, restless, waiting for the night. She was sure...almost entirely that she wouldn't go back...wouldn't need to in the light of day. However, as the daylight waned and disappeared over the city, she found herself back at the club...and on the elevator, lifting almost silently, her pulse climbing with the floors.

She had been staring blankly straight ahead, trying to convince herself to just go back down to the street. She didn't stop the elevator, and jolted when the doors opened and she saw Donna waiting, calmly. Donna grabbed Lara's arm and and guided her back toward her room. She wasn't dragging her like the night before, but she wasn't giving her much of a choice either. "I'm glad you decided to come."

Lara fought back her surprise and went with Donna, not able to answer until the door closed behind them again, and the older woman released her, "I'm glad you are." She straightened, trying to fall back onto her own walls, strength, that she hadn't needed in quite some time. Maybe Donna at least would be able to provide her enough distraction, solace, to let her sleep that night.

Donna shook her head at Lara's words. "Why'd you come?" She wasn't going to beat around the bush.

Lara stared at her, "I don't know." She suddenly needed something more, didn't want to be sent away, "...I was hoping you would help me with that answer." Her own voice sounded foreign, and she glanced at the ground for the first time, only quickly "....please."

Donna nodded. It was enough for now. "Okay." She reached out and stroked Lara's cheek. "You know I'm going to have to punish you for the scene you caused last night?"

Lara jerked away from the quiet touch instinctively, it was too gentle, and it caused a mental sting across her skin. At the older woman's last comment she felt a slight blush rise, mind finally settling, "Yes. Thank you." She fixed Donna with a glance, breath quickening, eyes begging silently.

She hadn't thought that Lara would object to that. If anything, from her behavior the night before, Donna would say that she was asking for it. "Good." She nodded brusquely. "Take your clothing off, then bring me those cuffs." She nodded toward a set sitting on a nearby desk.

Lara nodded and silently undressed on the spot, dropping each article of clothing on the floor beside her until she stood in front of Donna unabashedly nude. She still wasn't sure why she was doing this, what it was about the eerily calm woman facing her that pulled this behavior from her, from the depths of her psyche. Whatever it was it was strong, and the next things she knew Lara was holding the cuffs out to Donna, feeling their weight as she waited for the older woman to take them.

Donna barely glanced at Lara's nude form, focusing instead on the cuffs. They were larger than normal, running over her wrists and tapering toward rings at the end. Once they were on, she lowered a chain from the ceiling and hooked the restraints to it, raising it again where Lara's arms were stretched taut over her head, forcing her onto her toes. Lara stayed passive, letting Donna do what she would. She let out a long breath, the familiar tension, the promise was almost comforting in a way. It had been a long time since she had taken Elise, and she had nearly forgotten the anticipation of being in this position.

"What's your safe word?" Donna picked up a short whip and gave it a few experimental swings within Lara's line of sight. She wondered how long the woman would be able to keep her balance.

Lara was pulled out of her growing reverie by the question, and glanced sharply at Donna, immediately on the defensive, "Myra," she said, a little too quickly.

Donna nodded, already knowing the significance of the word, but she left it alone for the moment. "Good. Don't bother counting. You won't be able to keep up." And with that, she moved behind Lara and started whipping her, bringing the lash down against her back and thighs in even strokes. She would wait until Lara was twisting away from her before she moved on to her front.

She groaned, taking a few moments to settle into the sensation again. Donna was quick, forceful, and precise, and Lara couldn't' have counted if she tried. Her skin was stinging acutely before long, and finally her mind softened, the room fading, listening only to the swift crack of the leather.

Donna could tell when Lara's mind started to wander, as her balance started to waver. She stopped whipping her for a moment. "Are you ready to stop?" She didn't think the answer would be yes, but it gave her a moment to gather further supplies.

Lara's eyes fluttered open when the punishment stopped and the world rushed back at her, along with the lingering pain in her back, "No!" She said it almost panicked.

Donna nodded and walked back over with a hood in her hands. She intended it more for Lara's protection than for the sensory deprivation, but that didn't mean that she wasn't aware of the effect. She pulled it over Lara's head, making sure the mesh mouth area was properly lined up. Donna wanted to make sure that she heard her when Lara used her safe word. Once it was secure, she stepped back and flicked the whip a few more time to get back in the rhythm.

Lara shuddered in spite of herself as the darkness fell around her. It wasn't the first time she had been blinded, Elise having cracked a few times, needing reprieve from Lara's stare for her own sake. However, Elise was too vein to do more than cover her eyes, Lara's features being too striking to obscure in a scene. This time, however, everything was lost to her, her vision was gone, and her hearing muffled. She twisted slightly, left with only the pain in her skin and her thoughts echoing in her head. Before long she was starting to moan, then whimper quietly....though she was aware of neither.

Donna moved from Lara's back, not wanting to break the skin, to her front. She could hit her quite as hard, but her skin was more sensitive, and Donna bet that she wasn't used to that sort of treatment. She took careful aim for Lara's nipples as she whipped her breasts, then moved slowly downward.

Lara's whimpers became louder, and her toes shifted frantically, just reaching the carpet. She wasn't sure what was happening to her anymore, and images started to flash across the darkness that she was being held in. At first they were random, sights and places from her past, some further back than she could usually remember. Soon they became sharper, real, and she could see Nathalie cowering on the floor...and then it was Elise...her hands bound and crying.

Lara cried out, and the image faded, replaced by Donna, her eyes determined but calm. She was crying freely now, and the tears were staining the hood, further making her frantic. With the next lash, Donna faded out, and she was back in school again, and Myra was there, her image shimmering in the dark. Lara's wrists twisted in the cuffs, and she cried harder. Donna was moving faster now, and Lara was sure she'd finally gone insane, her hallucinations so vivid, clear.

Suddenly her cries went from those of pain to almost manic as she saw a blinding flash and Myra disappeared, fading into the light, the fire. "No! No!" She screamed, "No please! Myra!!" Before Donna could reach her she again heard the screech, the crash, and her last walls dissolved. Immediately she was crying, shaking. Her bare feet frantically brushed the carpet as she was back in the night, running through the puddles on the dark road, trying desperately to reach Myra before the flames did. She screamed again, and the vision evaporated, replaced by darkness. Lara just hung there, drained and whimpering, body twisting from left to right on the chain.

As soon as Lara invoked Myra's name, Donna had stopped. Seconds later the other woman was hanging limply, and she slid down slightly as Donna loosened the chain just enough to lift the rings off of the hook and support Lara. She pulled the hood off of her head and pulled Lara into her arms. "It wasn't your fault, you know." She spoke gently, and managed to get them to a chair and pull Lara into her lap.

Lara was still crying, shaking violently. It had been years, nearly a decade since she had seen that night in her mind so clearly, heard her own angry words earlier in the evening, watched as Myra's face had fallen and she walked out of the door for what would prove to be the last time. Lara's first world had ended in fire before her eyes, and she had never let it go. But there, in Donna's arms, she found herself nodding between sobs, slowly starting to calm.

Donna kept holding Lara, touching her soothingly and repeating variations on the same theme. That it wasn't her fault. That it had been an accident. That she couldn't keep blaming herself. She kissed Lara's temple, just letting her cry.

And she did, listening to Donna's litany of words, letting them wash over her. Lara clung to the older woman's clothes, only barely feeling them soaked with her tears. Before long, she was drifting in and out of consciousness, breath still catching with silent sobs, though they finally grew fainter and further apart.

"Come get in bed." The night had taken a physical toll on her too, and she doubted that she would be able to lift Lara long enough to get her into the other room.

Lara stirred, coughing slightly, and nodded. She managed to stand and stumble after Donna to bed, slipping under the sheets and barely feeling the sting of the cloth against her raw skin. When the older woman lay next to her, taking her in her arms again, Lara pressed her face against the brunette's shoulder. "Thank you." She said it quietly but sincerely as she lapsed into a deep, and for once dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

Ally moved through the lounge carefully, taking the most direct route to a cluster of people and pets, careful to keep the tray she was carrying balanced. Every night there seemed like a new one since she had been moved from service in the downstairs bar; she didn't realized that there was very little overlap in the patrons that frequented the two spots, and she was having to learn new ones all over again. But she didn't mind. The lounge had better access to the club proper, and being a house pet, her dues were waived. She had a steady hand in carrying drinks, which was something that couldn't be said for all of the pets, but even after a few nights, she was still nervous. The mood in the lounge was different, quieter but not more relaxed. She could more acutely feel eyes watching her, making her blush, and the little touches had a different weight.

But no one in the group was much concerned with her. There were enough pets to go around, and it seemed like they were celebrating something. Ally couldn't help but admit to herself, as she took the tray back to the bar, that she felt a little isolated. People had favorites, and up here, she wasn't anyone's favorite yet. But Brynn had said she matched better there. While she wasn't too sure about that, Ally knew it was better not to question Brynn's judgment; they said sometimes even tiny things like that came from Therese.

She thought about it as she stepped back into an almost hidden alcove near the bar, waiting to be called by the bartender or anyone else that might want her. It wasn't unpleasant to simply watch. She could get to know the faces, put drinks with them, put likes and dislikes with them. Ally was, in fact, so focused on trying to decide what a man, a judge she thought she heard someone say, with a fading ginger colored beard was drinking that she didn't notice the two blondes with their supermodel in training pet until the pet let out a soft moan when she was rewarded for bringing them drinks.

Ally focused on the couple—because they were obviously a couple just by the small glances and touches Ally could see them exchange. They seemed comfortable enough to be regulars, so Ally was confident that she would see them again. Though she realized she was staring quite openly, admiring the relaxed poise that one woman embodied in contrast to her companion, who with her glasses and raised chin atop a long neck had a more severe elegance. The former looked up, and Ally blushed when their eyes locked for a moment. She lowered her gaze but ventured to continue watching through her lashes. Their pet was obviously well trained, so much so that it was hard for Ally to imagine what she might have been like in the beginning. But she kept in mind that everyone had to start somewhere; even some of the patrons—at least, she had heard—started off like her.

The couple seemed intent on simply relaxing. Ally noticed their glasses were near empty before the bartender did, but she knew it would be presumptuous to refresh them without being told to do so. Much to her delight, the bartender sent her over with two fresh drinks, however, and she wondered if the women were important.

Ally's heart fluttered as she crossed the room to them. She knelt, still clumsy but without spilling a drop.

"Pretty…" The blonde without the glasses said. Ally put her hands behind her back when they were free again, and she was still as the woman stroked her hair. It was always nice to be touched, to be rewarded with more than a simple pat, but she knew not to presume. She was about to get up when the woman said, "Let's let her stay a little while, Alex. She's a pretty contrast to Sabina."

Ally assumed the other woman, Alex, nodded because she was then encouraged by gentle touches to settle beside their legs. She kept her eyes lowered and bit the insides of her cheeks in order not to smile brightly. But Ally could feel their pet's eyes on her. She glanced up to what was a sideways glare just as the brunette cut her eyes her way, and she lowered them again when the girl raised her chin and sat up a little straighter, as if unimpressed.

The woman stroked her hair from time to time, garnering a sharper glare from their pet for Ally. But Ally was content to merely dream of more. She wondered what would happen if she was asked back to their rooms, if they had them. It was easy to get lost in that thought…so easy that it took her a moment to realize that they were getting up, nudging her up with Alex chuckling as Ally got her balance.

It was hard to hide her disappointment when they went off towards the staircase. She knew better than to hope for grand things, but sometimes it was hard not to let her daydreams run away with her. She noticed, however, the blonde who had asked her to stay stopping as Brynn passed them. Ally could just hear their conversation from her alcove.

"That house pet, is she new?"

Brynn nodded, glancing in Ally's direction. "I had her moved from the bar downstairs. Was she satisfactory?"

The blonde was smiling in a way that made Ally's breath catch. "Oh, of course; she was fine. What's her name?"

At that, Ally shrank back into the shadow of the alcove so she could grin to herself. No one had yet, to her knowledge, asked her name. She felt a small sense of triumph and privilege in knowing that she had made enough of an impression to warrant it. And she hoped, as she watched them finally go, that it meant she would have the blonde's attention again.

Chapter Text

Sabina looked around the lounge as she waited for the bartender to refill Patrice's drink. Alex was on the other side of the room talking with someone that she didn't recognize and Patrice was temporarily distracted by a passing slave in a particularly creative costume. Otherwise, nothing interesting was happening and Sabina was feeling a bit bored and a bit restless. And, well, that was no fun. She smiled at the bartender as he handed her the drink, and by the time she was walking away from the bar, she had a plan. A mischievous smile tugged at the corners of her lips as she turned away from the quickest path back to Patrice. Instead, she headed to where Thomas was tied to a frame against a side wall, displayed for everyone to see. She winked at him, not caring if he would get in trouble for what she was about to do. She might not be interested in men, but touching wasn't really that much of a hardship. Sabina leaned in and kissed his chest, sucking one of his nipples into her mouth as she wrapped her free hand around his cock. She could feel him shuddering under her touch and she pulled away after only a moment, turning back to room and wandering toward Patrice, trying to find something else to distract her before she got there. The club was always full of distractions.

Patrice had been wondering where Sabina was; she had sent her for a drink what seemed like awhile ago. She moved back to a table, and glanced over just in time to see the brunette shamelessly out of line. Her eyes narrowed, and she crossed her arms across her chest, fingers digging into her skin. The blond didn't sit, just waited expectantly for the girl to return. There was something in Sabina's behavior that night, that week really, that demonstrated she and Alex were getting too relaxed with her. It was one thing at home, but here was different. And that she had chosen Thomas just made Patrice that much more intent on making a point, and quickly.

Sabina could tell that Patrice wasn't pleased with her and she decided that another detour might be ill advised. Instead, she simply smiled at some of the people she passed, flirting with them silently until she reached Patrice. She looked directly up at her. "Your drink." She held it up.

Patrice wasn't impressed with any of the girl's behavior, and she was clenching her jaw, glaring at her. "Put it on the table."

Patrice's tone carried across the room, though her actual words did not. Alex glanced towards her, noting the look on her face, but she decided that whatever it was that Sabina had done, Patrice could handle it.

Sabina put the drink on the table and visibly wiped the smile from her face, almost pouting. She knew that Patrice wasn't happy with her behavior and she was already anticipating the response. "Did I do something wrong?" She knew just how big her eyes could look and she was using it to her advantage as she feigned innocence.

Patrice wasn't buying it. Sabina knew how to play her well enough, but the display was too much for her to smooth over. The blond quickly reached out and slapped the young woman across the face, bringing her palm down immediately again against her other cheek on the way back. Patrice's tone grew louder, "Don't think I didn't see well enough your little display over there." She crossed her arms again, pulse quickening in the moment, "On your knees."

Sabina sucked in a breath at the pain and dropped to her knees without bothering to try to make it look elegant. She hit the ground hard, but that only made the moment better. She was already breathing hard and she wanted to reach out and touch Patrice, but she stopped herself.

Alex raised her eyebrows at Patrice from across the room, but she still did not cross to her. There was something entrancing about watching from the distance.

"Well that was unimpressive." Patrice's tone was even, and she leaned over and hauled the girl up by the hair. "Try that again, pretend you know what you're doing." The blond didn't know if Sabina was just in a mood or if she was looking to learn a lesson, either way she was prepared to make an impression

Sabina moaned as Patrice pulled her back up. "Yes Patrice." She was already swooning as she knelt again, more skilled this time, and rather than stopping herself, she leaned forward and kissed the top of Patrice's shoe.

She suppressed a raised eyebrow; the girl really was getting incorrigible in these situations. Patrice moved the toe of her shoe to catch under the brunette's chin, raising her gaze to meet her own glare. "Jumping ahead I see. We're far from that, and don't think I won't have you apologizing in earnest by the time this is finished." She shoved the girl back up, "But first you have someone else to apologize to." Patrice spotted Jonas lounging a little way from where Thomas was tied and grabbed Sabina firmly by the hair again, this time shoving her onto all fours in his general direction. "Go give Jonas a proper apology for touching his pet without permission." She waited to follow, to make sure the girl was sincere.

Sabina shivered and started crawling toward Jonas, wondering just what sort of apology he might want. Once she reached him, she sat back on her heals. "I'm very sorry that I touched Thomas without your permission." She wasn't in the least, but she had a feeling that Jonas would understand what she was getting out of the situation.

Patrice had stepped up behind her and overheard the short and not completely impressive speech. She glanced at Jonas, then slapped Sabina on the back of the head. "You know better. Try again...and put your head on the floor this time."

Jonas licked his lips lightly and ran his hand over the slight stubble on his chin. He had thoroughly enjoyed watching Sabina's display, and what's more, he quite approved of what the girl was trying to do. He raised his eyebrows at Patrice's response but reserved his grin until Sabina had done as she was told. "Well, out with it once more," he said, smirking.

Sabina leaned forward and put her forehead on the floor. It was easier to smile without being seen that way. "I'm sorry that I touched Thomas without permission. I hope that I haven't displeased you and I'll do whatever you like to make it up to you." She leaned forward and kissed one of his shoes, sneaking her tongue out to lick it slightly.

"I'm certain," Jonas began as he lightly touched the girl's hair, "you'll do your best for Patrice tonight, then. Though..." He looked up to the blonde as he straightened in his chair. "I'm still not certain of her sincerity. I rather thought I heard a bit of a smile in her voice." He smirked before he began to chuckle. "I'm sure, however, you'll do something about that."

Patrice crossed her arms again, already looking forward to the rest of the evening. "Of course I intend to." She left Sabina on the floor as she spoke, stepping firmly on the ends of the girl's hair to hold her there as she continued her conversation, "I suppose I could find her a place near Thomas to think about her behavior."

Sabina moaned audibly when she heard Patrice's suggestion. She could feel her hair pulling, but she didn't try to lean closer to stop the pain. It was exactly what she wanted.

It had come to Brynn's attention that there might be a commotion in the lounge. She had emerged from her office, leaving her paperwork behind to lean against the door frame and watch. From what she could see, nothing was amiss. Patrice and Sabina were with Alex, and Alex was Liz's protege; thus, there were very few lines any of them could cross in order to really create a problem. She smiled as she crossed the room to Patrice, nodding to Alex along the way. "Patrice, I hope you're enjoying your evening. Might you need anything?"

Patrice turned slightly to face Brynn, her shoe twisting Sabina's hair and pulling it. She smiled as if meeting Brynn casually on the sidewalk, "I am. However...is Ally here tonight? I seem to be in need of a companion who hasn't completely forgotten her manners. Oh...and a set of cuffs might be nice, metal I think."

"Of course. I'll have Ally bring them." Brynn smiled and finished the conversation with a nod as she went to see about the request herself.

Sabina was still on the floor at Jonas and Patrice's feet and her scalp was starting to ache. She tugged at her hair, seeing if maybe she could knock Patrice off balance.

Patrice reached down and slapped the girl's ass with more than a little force. She smirked, having chosen Ally for the express purpose of annoying Sabina. The girl disliked her for some reason, and it seemed a fitting punishment.

It was hard for Ally to keep a smile off of her face when she walked into the lounge. Her eyes were bright as she walked towards Patrice, holding out the cuffs once she reached her. The willowy girl with a sprinkling of light freckles across her nose thought Patrice was one of the most beautiful, fascinating women she had ever met, and she counted herself luck to have shared a couple of scenes with her and Alex. "The handcuffs as requested, ma'am," she said as she knelt, taking note of Sabina's position.

Sabina frowned when Ally knelt beside her, not bothering to hide her displeasure. She had never particularly cared for the other woman, but normally she tried to at least be polite. Tonight, she didn't bother.

Patrice smiled at Ally and ran her fingers through the girl's hair when she knelt, letting her tone grow appreciative and loud enough that Sabina could make no mistake from her place still pinned to the floor. Ally was sweet, but too simple for Patrice to consider interesting enough for more than a passing game or two. "Thank you Ally, you look beautiful. So glad you're here tonight." After a moment she motioned the girl to stand, and stepped off of Sabina's hair. "Let's go relax shall we?" She moved off toward one of the more secluded couches. "You too Sabina," but glared at the girl over her shoulder as she went to stand, "oh no..you haven't earned the right to walk yet. On your hands and knees." With that she led Ally off at a pace that would make Sabina hurry to keep up.

Sabina pursed her lips and crawled after them. She wasn't used to crawling and it was starting to make her knees hurt, but she kept up. She was already trying to think up ways to get the attention away from Ally and back onto her.

Ally beamed and lowered herself to Patrice's feet when the blonde sat. She didn't care if she needed to get up again, to get Patrice a drink or to do whatever. She just wanted to impress the woman and to do everything right that night. Sabina was the last thing on her mind.

Patrice sat, then pulled Ally up and kissed her cheek indulgently. When Sabina caught up, the blond handed the cuffs back to Ally, "Be good an put these on Sabina? You don't have to be nice to her tonight, she's being punished."

"Oh!" Ally's eyes went wide. "Thank you," she said breathlessly. She bit her lip thoughtfully before turning to Sabina. The girl was pretty and poised, and Ally had to admit that she was more than a bit jealous of her, especially since Patrice seemed to favor her so much. She paused, unsure of whether to cuff Sabina's hands in front or in back, but she finally settled on the front, closing the cuffs perhaps a bit too tight before going back to Patrice.

Sabina glared at Ally and pulled against the cuffs, even though she knew that they wouldn't give. She hoped that they weren't going to cut off the circulation in her hands because then she would have to end the scene and she didn't want to have to do that. She kept glaring as she looked up at Patrice waiting for some sort of orders.

Patrice smirked at Ally's compliance and stood, going to Sabina. She reached and pulled the girl's hands up, quietly loosening the bindings one click each. They would still be uncomfortable, but not dangerous. She placed Sabina's hands on her head, and pressed the girl's legs apart with the toe of her shoe. She circled the brunette one time before returning to the couch and sitting, speaking to Ally, "I was planning on quite a nice night with Sabina, but seeing as how she's both forgotten her manners and how to apologize I suppose she doesn't deserve it." She started tugging the girl forward gently, spreading her legs as she did so. "Though, I still intend to enjoy myself."

Ally smiled and willingly went, sliding between Patrice's legs. She looked up to Patrice gratefully, focusing on the fact that she was the one picked to make things better, rather than thinking that she was the next best thing. She pressed Patrice's skirt up and gently pushed the blonde's panties aside, beside herself when she saw how wet Patrice was. Ally began to lick her slowly, hoping that she was doing just what Patrice wanted.

Alex sipped a new drink as she watched. Her conversation had long been over, but she stayed away, unabashedly enjoying the view. Ally was a bit too eager to please for her tastes, but she was interested to see what Sabina would do to try to gain the upper hand.

Sabina shifted and watched Ally between Patrice's legs. She huffed and rolled her eyes as she saw Ally do something that she knew for a fact Patrice didn't like. She was tempted to just move the girl. She was tempted to simply go back to their rooms and see what Patrice would do with that. Sabina started to let her attention wander, looking around the room for something to entertain her.

Patrice was well aware of Sabina's silent tantrum, but wasn't about to stop to take care of it just then. She pressed into Ally, moaning as she came against the girl's tongue. Ally wasn't as adept as either Sabina or Alex, but the blond had been wanting from the activities of the night, and it was easy to let go. When she relaxed, she pushed Ally back to her knees and smiled at her, "Good girl. Now do me a favor and go get a paddle from Brynn." She sat back and crossed her legs to wait.

Ally got up, smirking at Sabina and tossing her strawberry blonde hair as she crossed the room. It would be nice not to be the one who was getting paddled for once. She returned moments later with a paddle and presented it to Patrice.

Sabina wanted to be paddled. She wanted the pain and she wanted the attention. She wanted Patrice to go back to slapping her and pulling her hair.

Patrice liked to keep Sabina offguard and didn't take it from the girl, opting instead to stand and pull Sabina up unexpectedly. She silently dragged the girl across to the nearest wall and shoved her roughly into it, noting the brunette's slight surprise before flipping her over so she was facing the wood paneling. "Ally come here." Her tone had darkened again, though she remained in control.

Gasping in surprise, Ally watched the display. She couldn't imagine why Sabina was so wet, why she kept pushing and being bad. It wasn't the type of scene she could fathom enjoying. She gripped the paddle and went to Patrice, looking up at the blonde questioningly.

Patrice could feel Sabina's pulse increasing, and she closed her fingers around the back of the girl's neck, holding her to the wall. "Go ahead Ally, until I tell you to stop." She noted the girl's uncertainty and added firmly, "and if you are too easy on her, I'll punish you as well."

Sabina grunted as she hit the wall. She tried to find some kind of purchase, but it was impossible with the way that her hands were bound. She looked over her shoulder at Patrice, pressing into her hand as she pushed her ass out, waiting for Ally to start.

Ally was licking her lips obsessively, but they still felt too dry. She had never paddle anyone before, and it was hard to enjoy the thought of it when she was so worried that she might mess it up. Finally, with one more questioning look at Patrice, she started. She didn't want to be punished; in fact, she was scared of what a punishment from Patrice, that night especially, would be like. She she hit Sabina absolutely as hard as she could.

Patrice noted Ally's almost frantic movements, but wasn't too worried. This girl's best wasn't half what Donna, or even Alex was capable of and so she let it continue, waiting for Sabina's reaction.

Sabina grunted and rocked forward under the force. It was almost more like being punched than paddled as Ally didn't seem to have the experience necessary to really make it sting. Still, it was having the desired effect. Her nipples were hard, her breathing was becoming jagged, and even with her legs spread she could feel the wetness on her thighs.

Ally continued, too scared to look at Patrice to see if she was doing okay. Her arm was starting to get tired, and it wasn't really as much fun as she thought it would be. But she was hoping against hope that she would get a reward.

Patrice was enjoying the response, and slid her fingers around to the front of Sabina's neck, taking up a gradual pressure. It wasn't something she had done to the girl yet, but all she had to do to get away from it was lean back. With her free hand the blond reached down and pinched at one of Sabina's nipples, twisting it between her fingers.

Sabina didn't pull away. If anything, she pressed into Patrice's hand. It was getting harder to breathe, but not so much to be truly frightening. She trusted that Patrice would stop before she passed out. That feeling, added to the pain of the paddle and from Patrice's fingers on her nipple. She squirmed as she gasped for air, moaning lightly.

Ally's eyes were wide, and she paused without being to told to stop. She hadn't seen many scenes like this, and she was unsure.

Patrice glanced at the girl, then at Sabina's skin. It was bright red, but hadn't reached the damaging point yet. She nodded for Ally to continue, letting her expression be reassuring. When the girl started again, Patrice moved to Sabina's other nipple, still holding her fingers around the girl's neck, changing the pressure intermittently just enough to make sure she wouldn't loose consciousness.

Taking in a shaking breath, Ally began again, whimpering lightly as she realized that this wasn't about her at all.

"God..." Sabina knew that she wasn't supposed to talk, but she was completely overwhelmed. "Patrice..." She pushed into the hand on her nipple and her head was swimming. She was pulling at her bonds, though she didn't know what she would do with her hands if they were free.

That was the tone Patrice was waiting for, and when she thought Sabina couldn't take much more she nodded for Ally to stop, and stepped around quickly behind the brunette. Patrice kept one hand on the girl's throat, pressing slightly harder, and the other between her legs, stroking and circling just around her clit firmly before the pain had time to fade. "Do you have something to say now?" Patrice whispered, knowing that any response would be hard to get out, but it would be sincere.

Stepping back, Ally bit her lip hard. She hadn't been dismissed, so she simply watched.

Sabina moaned desperately and pressed into Patrice. "Please... I'm sorry," she managed to gasp out as dark circles started to form in front of her eyes. Everything felt so much more intense and she was already so close. Her thighs were wet and she rubbed them together around Patrice's hands.

She could hear the almost desparate sincerity in Sabina's voice, and Patrice didn't wait, firmly stroking the girl's clit, pushing her over the edge quickly.

Sabina moaned as loudly as she could when she came, her muscles promptly giving out on her. She sagged in Patrice's arms. Her neck was sore and she felt like she couldn't speak, but she didn't have anything to say anyway. She pressed herself against Patrice as tears finally started covering her face.

Ally's throat was dry, and the paddle felt heavy in her hand. She had only been at the club for a few months, and she wasn't there every night like some pets. But she still hadn't seen a scene like this. She didn't think she would like it at all, but when she shifted, she realized that she was wet and sensitive already.

Patrice caught Sabina and held her tightly as she cried, whispering how good she was, how beautiful. She was more than a little sure the brunette would remember the night for a good while. Sabina was far from being able to stand on her own, though Patrice could feel her pulse strong and steady as she kissed the girl's neck. The blond smiled a little as she exchanged a look with Alex, who was approaching from across the room.

While she was more than ready to pull any passing house pet who passed into her arms to take care of her almost painful arousal, Alex made her way to Patrice and Sabina. She was proud of the brunette for making such a pretty show of herself, and she was quite glad she hadn't intervened. When she reached them, she kissed Patrice fiercely before taking Sabina into her arms.

Patrice returned the kiss and let Sabina slump into the other blond's embrace. She was more than ready to spend some time with Alex, but hadn't really finished the scene quite yet, "take her back to the room? I'll be there soon." She glanced meaningfully at Ally, who was still standing wide-eyed a pace behind them.

Sabina wrapped her arms around Alex, leaning against her as they headed back tot he room. She was slowly starting to recover and as she did, she let her hands wander over Alex's skin.

Patrice watched them go for a moment before turning back to the other girl. She reached and took her by the wrist, smiling, "You were very good, I can tell that was all new to you, and you definitely deserve a reward." She took the paddle as she sat back on the couch, pulling the girl to sit on her lap facing away from her. The paddle she placed on the cushion next to her, not needing it anymore.

Ally was holding her breath, not expecting to hear such kind words from Patrice, to be alone, as much as they could be in the lounge, with her. "Thank you," she said breathlessly as she squirmed lightly on the blonde's lap. "Thank you so much, ma'am."

Patrice smiled, and kissed the girl's soft skin. She quietly pressed the younger woman's legs apart and brushed her fingers between them. Patrice was aware this would be enough of a small challenge for her, in public like this. However, most of the other patrons had gone back to their previous entertainment once Sabina had been taken away.

"Oh!" She shuddered lightly and pressed into the touch, amazed at how good even the slight pressure felt. No one had taken Ally so publicly yet, but she was too excited to be too nervous, especially not after what she had just watched. She pressed back into Patrice's chest, delighting in the whole scene.

Patrice withheld a slight chuckle, enjoying the girl's obvious lack of experience. She touched her with more intent, letting her other hand work up to one of the girl's breasts, touching it lightly. "Mmmmnn...good girl.." she encouraged.

Ally couldn't help but moan at the praise, at the touch. She was so overwhelmed, so hypersensitive, that she couldn't even think to control herself. Her climax came suddenly--so much so that she surprised herself when she began to come. And she curled her fingers into fists, pushing through it as she savored every moment.

When the girl quieted, Patrice kissed her and gently moved her to lay curled up on the couch. She waited, stroking her hair for a few moments reassuringly, and smiled when Ally closed her eyes, breath slowing almost immediately. The blond quietly stood, and moved to follow after Alex and Sabina, giving Brynn a meaningful glance from across the room, making sure she would see after Ally.

Alex looked up when she heard the door open. She knew Patrice would come directly into the bedroom, where she was holding Sabina in her arms, bringing the girl down after what had happened. She smiled when she saw the blonde. "Done for the night?"

Patrice nodded, smiling quietly, "I think so." She noted Alex's look which she knew well, "Almost." The blond crossed the room, slipping out of her dress as she went, draping it over a chair before moving to Alex and kissing her gently.

Returning the kiss, Alex pulled Patrice close. She wanted to both show the blonde her appreciate for what she had watched earlier--whether it had been meant for her or not--and to end the evening gently, quietly, giving them all time to process.

Chapter Text

Sabina gunned the engine one last time as she pulled the motorcycle into the building's parking garage, loving the way that the sound echoed around her. She hadn't thought to ask permission from Patrice or Alex to have it shipped from Italy, and she didn't have her license test scheduled for another week. But she figured that if any cops stopped her, her Italian license and possibly Alex's name would take care of that. She had been impossibly excited when her parents bought it for her, a belated birthday present, and she couldn't imagine having to leave it in Italy for at least another year.

The noise absolutely annoyed Alex as she pulled in. Really, who revved an engine like that in a parking garage? She was frowning, trying to think if anyone she knew had a motorcycle when she saw Sabina hopping off of the bike. Alex was pursing her lips even before she parked and got out of her car. "Sabina, what's going on?" she said, voice echoing.

Sabina turned at the sound of Alex's voice, a grin plastered on her face. "Isn't it great?"

The sound of the locks clicking in Alex's Lexus echoed briefly as she sauntered over to Sabina. She put her hands on her hips, keys dangling from her fingers. "Where did this come from?" She was clearly unimpressed.

"My parents got it for me over Spring Break. I just picked it up from the port." Sabina couldn't stop smiling, almost bouncing on her toes, despite Alex's expression. "It's a late birthday present."

Alex shook her head as she tried to process this news; Sabina had spent her break in Italy with her family, but the bike was not among the myriad of things she mentioned upon coming home. She looked over the bike, then back to Sabina, worried now that the smile might be there permanently. "Were you planning on telling us about this?" She pursed her lips, noting that Sabina hadn't seemed nearly as excited when she and Patrice presented her with the fire opal ring she had wanted for her birthday.

"Um...." Sabina bit her lip, smile still not gone. "I'm telling you about it now?" She looked up at Alex hopefully. She hadn't even thought that it might be a problem. It wasn't as if she could drive it in the apartment, and they didn't often proscribe her behavior outside of it. "Do you want to go for a ride?"

The blonde crossed her arms and raised her eyebrows skeptically. "Do you have a license?"

"An Italian one. And I'm going for the test next week." Sabina looked up at Alex. "I've been riding on the vineyard for years."

Before letting herself react, Alex took a breath, licking her lips lightly. She squeezed the bridge of her nose. "Sabina, You can't just..." She shook her head. "No, you're not riding it again until you get the license."

"Oh..." Sabina deflated noticeably. "But it's just a week. And I do have a license." Even if it wasn't one from New York. "You'll love it. I promise. I haven't crashed in years."

Alex was already turning around to head inside, as she had been fully prepared for Sabina to follow quietly. She stopped, however, and turned back to the girl. "No. Absolutely not."

Sabina sighed and followed Alex inside. It was her bad luck that they had pulled in at the same time. She hadn't thought that it would be a big deal. "Of course." No matter how much she wanted to disregard Alex's command, obedience was too well ingrained in her by now.

Alex sighed softly in the elevator when she saw how the girl's face had fallen. She squeezed Sabina's shoulder lightly. "You can...take me for a ride after you get your license, okay?"

With Alex's words, Sabina's smile returned, and she couldn't stop herself from turning to Alex and placing an impulsive kiss on her cheek. "Thank you."

At that, Alex wrapped her arm around the girl and squeezed her hip. She would let Patrice decide how to punish her whenever she got home. Though, she was willing to bet that Sabina might be able to talk Patrice into taking a ride before the week was out.

Chapter Text

Patrice took a seat at an outside table. The café was one of her favorite places when it was nice out, and she especially liked the chicken salad. She glanced around, wondering if Sarah was already there. The blonde hadn't seen her ex-girlfriend in years, but having gotten the message that she was in the city for a weekend, she couldn't turn her down. They had parted on easy terms, and Sarah always had a bit of a penchant for adventure and was never dull to be around. Further, she said she had 'news,' and Patrice couldn't help her curiosity.

"Patrice...God, look at you!" Sarah was grinning unreservedly as she approached the table. She bent, meeting the blonde in a brief embrace before she sat with her usual careless flare. It was a beautiful day, and Patrice was a beautiful woman...and the memories of their relationship had always remained clear, or clear enough at least, in her mind. "What's good here?" she asked without picking up the menu, spreading her palms over the top of it as she leaned forward towards Patrice. "How are you?" she followed, half a breath later.

Patrice took a short breath, considering Sarah for a long moment. It was nice to see her again, and to see she hadn't changed really at all. It was that same energy that had drawn her to the brunette in the first place—the feeling that something amazing was always lurking around the next corner of her life. Patrice's eyes lit slightly as she answered, "Good, very good in fact, and the salads are amazing."

"Excellent." Sarah turned her attention to the waiter, beginning to speak even before he had gotten to the table. "Two salads, then...no tomatoes on hers...and some lovely light dressing involving vinegar. And you can give me her tomatoes and slather mine with something deliciously creamy, hm? Excellent," she said as she gaped and accepted the menus she was handing him. "Thank you." With that, Sarah turned her attention back to Patrice and finally settled, taking a breath. Even though Patrice had always been something of a workaholic, there was a zen about her. And Sarah had needed that when they were together and had appreciated it more after they parted. "Now...I want to hear all about what's so very good and if she has anything to do with how absolutely amazing your skin looks, but I can't wait another moment to tell you my news..."

Patrice took a sip of her water, remembering immediately both why she fell for Sarah and why they both knew it would never work out. She followed the other woman's litany of comments with a simple smile. She knew better than to try and give any lengthy explanation when Sarah was looking at her with that certain gleam in her eye. "By all means, I've been on the edge of my seat since you called. What's the news Sarah?"

"Well..." Sarah couldn't contain her smile as she thrust her hand forward, somehow making the gesture seem less stereotypical. In addition to an engagement ring that might have been a modest crown jewel, there was a wedding band circling her ring finger. "I've gotten married...can you believe it?"

Patrice took Sarah's hand, looking at the bands that had most definitely not been there when they had last parted. She felt her stomach drop slightly, though she managed what she hoped was a genuine smile. "Congratulations! That's so exciting Sarah, when did this happen? Have we really been this out of touch?"

"Oh, you know how I am about keeping in touch," she said, waving it away with her hand. "And here we are now. It's only been six months, but I'm desperately, embarrassingly happy. But beyond that it's hardly an interesting story. We met at a bar and one thing led to another..." Sarah didn't notice anything amiss with Patrice's smile. It was as lovely as ever.

Patrice didn't suppose Sarah would have it any other way. The other woman was hopelessly impulsive. The waiter brought their salads, which were impressive as usual. She found herself feigning a bit of interest throughout the rest of the meal, though she was quietly darkening inside. Patrice knew she felt nothing but genuine happiness for Sarah, but something nagging was bothering her that she couldn't quite place her finger on.

The afternoon slipped away while they talked, and Patrice smiled and listened to how Sarah and Todd had eloped on a beach in Maui and then hopped a flight to Anchorage...because it was summer...and neither had ever been. And then as quickly as she had arrived, Sarah was heading back off into her life. Patrice gave her a last smile and wave and turned for home, not quite sure why she suddenly had the urge just to find Alex and spend a quiet night in.

As soon as the door opened, Persia was making her way towards it to greet Patrice and get a few extra pats before Alex got all of her attention. If she looked cute enough, Patrice might even take her for a Saturday afternoon walk. At least, that was what Alex thought Persia's inner monologue must have been when she poked her head out of the living room to see that it was indeed Patrice and not Sabina who had come home. It was nice to have the penthouse to herself, but she was happy to have Patrice back. Alex wasn't jealous--well, she wasn't too jealous, at least. But she did want to know how things went. "Hey..." She smiled and went to Patrice, giving her a quick kiss. "Everything okay?"

Patrice stopped Alex as she tried to lean away, pulling her into a deeper kiss before releasing her. She looked down and petted Persia for a few moments before answering, only managing half her usual smile, "Good. It was good; she hasn't changed at all. Except...she's married now."

Happy with the attention but sensing that she wasn't going to get more, Persia padded away; Alex could hear her go into Sabina's room to await the girl's return home. She gripped Patrice's arms, pulling back a little so she could better see her face as she heard the blonde's voice fall slightly at the end of her sentence. "Does that really bother you?" she asked, not sure what the heart of the matter really was. But before Patrice could answer, Alex pulled her into the living room and down next to her on the sofa.

"No, no, not as such. I've been past Sarah for a long time, not that we were even involved really in the first place." Patrice shrugged and continued a little more slowly, "It just....it bothered me, not her, it I suppose." The blonde hadn't really considered the issue in terms of herself before and realized it was likely because she hadn't ever been in a position to care. She glanced up at Alex, surprised at the growing anger she felt toward no one in particular.

Alex blinked as she regarded Patrice, understand beginning to dawn on her. She took the blonde's hands and kissed them softly, thoughtfully. It wasn't something they had ever explicitly talked about, but it was clearer from the look on Patrice's face, from her darkening eyes, than anything that it was more than just an important cause to Patrice. "Don't let it get to you..." she said, realizing a moment too late that the words wouldn't help. It had already gotten to Patrice, and when faced with it that way, Alex wasn't sure she wouldn't react the same.

"I'm not, I'm fine, I guess I just wasn't expecting that to be her news. Sarah was always such a wildcard I guess; I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that she'd jump into this as well." Patrice looked at her hands, "She just seemed so natural, I've never really considered what I can't have." The blonde smiled a little, she always considered herself so lucky to have what she did, her career, her experiences, Alex and now Sabina, nothing had seemed missing before.

Alex nearly flippantly suggested that they could move to Boston, but she caught herself. They could, certainly, move and give up what they were beginning to build together in the city and start again. She sighed softly in frustration. While the collective issue had always been important, it had never felt so close. Alex pulled Patrice into her arms, still thoughtful. "I never really thought about it either...I mean, not like that."

She kissed the other blonde, enjoying the closeness, Alex's warmth and scent. "Yeah, I never thought it would really matter to me...beyond the obvious of course. Sorry....it's ok." She kissed the other woman again, needing the connection.

"Don't apologize," Alex whispered in a quick breath before kissing Patrice again. She pressed the blonde back gently, wanting her to know that she was there, that she would be there even though she couldn't instantly change things for them. She ran her fingers through Patrice's hair, smiling as she pulled away slightly. "Why don't we just...spend the rest of the afternoon here..." she said softly.

Patrice nodded, slipping over and gently moving across Alex's lap, her knees on either side of the other blonde's legs. She looked into her eyes for a moment, then leaned in and kissed her, starting slowly then kissing deeper, letting her tension start to recede, setting the issue aside for the moment. "Mmmmnn... I think that sounds like just what I need."

"Well..." Alex took in a shuddering breath after the kiss and ran her hands up Patrice's sides under her shirt. "I won't be the one to deny you that..." She kissed Patrice again but only briefly before moving to kiss down her jaw, then her neck. Alex found the clasp of her bra and undid it, moaning contentedly as she slid her palms up Patrice's back, nudging the blonde's arms up and her shirt off.

Patrice shrugged her shirt off, then caught each of Alex's hands gently, kissing her wrists and placing them at her sides, flat on the cushions. She smiled a little, letting Alex know she wasn't dwelling on a situation she couldn't remedy. They would have more discussion inevitably, but for then Patrice intended to ground herself in the simplicity of the moment. She sat back and regarded the other blonde, then intently but slowly started to unbutton the front of Alex's shirt, trailing her fingers over the exposed skin as she went.

At the change, Alex merely raised her eyebrows, but her lips twitched with an unrealized smirk. She relaxed back into the cushions, enjoying the subtle touch, shivering delightedly at how easily the mood changed. Alex ventured to run a hand up Patrice's thigh, testing the moment.

Patrice gave her a sideways glance, firmly but gently removing the imposing hand and placing it back on the couch. She was in the mood to keep things simple, but take her mind off what was nagging. The blonde leaned in and kissed Alex's neck, nipping at it as she reached to unhook her bra, "Patience beautiful, " she whispered in her ear.

The feel of Patrice's breath on her ear, her neck sent a shudder through Alex and she moaned softly, growing ever more impatient at hearing the words. She curled her fingers into fists, pressing them into the fabric before moving to let Patrice slide her bra off. Patrice was tantalizing sitting there, and Alex was all the more aroused by the exercise.

She smiled, genuinely this time, and slipped off of Alex. Patrice stood in front of her and silently undressed, dropping each article of clothing on the floor, letting Alex watch. She paused then to consider, enjoying the other blonde's obvious anticipation. "Now you I think." She stepped back to Alex and more quickly finished undressing her, adding the clothes to the pile already on the floor. Patrice smiled at the sight and slipped her fingers to the inside of the other blonde's knees pressing them apart.

Patrice's calculated playfulness was something Alex had come to enjoy, to anticipate. But she found herself squirming as she watched, and she nearly had to bite back pleas for Patrice to finish, to touch her when she was made to undress. At the blonde's sure touch, she moaned, pressing forward, hoping to at least be rewarded with a kiss.

Patrice smiled and slipped to her knees between Alex's legs. She leaned in as if to kiss her and instead dipped her head and took one of the other woman's nipples in her mouth, rolling the other between her fingers. "Mmmmnn..." she spoke teasingly, "Is there something you'd like Alex?"

"I'm not..." Alex took in a shuddering breath as she tried not to moan at the contact. "Good at being patient when you're so...mmm...please, Patrice," she begged, voice a rasping whisper.

In response, Patrice bit down on the other woman's nipple playfully. "I know you're not." She leaned back and slid quietly down the blonde's body so she could kiss the insides of her thighs. "It's a shame...you used to..mmmnn....have such good control." She was smiling, kissing closer to Alex's center.

Alex moaned in both frustration and delight. She lifted her hands, intent upon tangling them in Patrice's hair before she remembered herself and dropped them to her sides, squirming at being so limited. "Before I met you," she breathed, trying to calm herself, trying to rise to the challenge.

Patrice chuckled, darting her tongue out to touch Alex's clit only briefly, "So it's my fault then?" She waited for an answer.

"Entirely," Alex said, shuddering as she threw her head back. She knew she probably just bought herself more time until her release, but it was an absolute delight to be kept that way by Patrice.

Patrice nipped at Alex's leg, kissing the spot after, smoothing over the reddening flesh. "That's not very polite to say to the woman who's about to make you come in her mouth." She paused, letting the other blonde feel her breath between her legs, "I think an apology is in order."

"I'm sorry..." Alex blurted, the words rolling clumsily off of her tongue. She squirmed again, inching forward as if begging for even more of Patrice's breath, as if it were all she would get. "I'm sorry...please..." It was not often that Alex found herself so incoherent, so unable to contain her own desires. But in that moment, she would have done anything Patrice asked, and she hoped that was apparent.

"That's better....I knew you still had manners." Patrice leaned in and gradually started licking Alex, increasing the pace agonizingly slowly.

"Oh...God..." Alex moaned, toes curling in the delight at being to delightfully tantalized. She couldn't focus on how she might get Patrice back or how she might thank her. All she felt was that moment, was the beautiful woman between her legs. Even the possibility of how soon her climax might come escaped Alex.

She took her time to enjoy the reactions she was earning, her earlier brooding slipping away with each whimper, moan she elicited. Patrice opened her mouth wider, increasing the contact, moving her palms up to press Alex's legs wider. She had to keep herself from smiling smugly at the increase in the other woman's breath.

"Please," Alex whispered, finally feeling herself on the edge. She squirmed into Patrice's touch, increasing the contact even more. But she held herself off, waiting instinctively for permission, whether she needed to or not.

"Mmmmnn...alright..." Patrice relented, moving faster and listening for the other blonde's breath to catch. As much as she was enjoying holding Alex on edge, she wanted to make good on her promise.

Alex let out a long sigh as she curled her fingers into fists and shuddered. She couldn't wait any longer, so even before she finished she pulled Patrice up and into a deep kiss, tasting herself on the blonde's lips, increasing the contact of their bodies.

Patrice didn't feel the need to tease, to control any longer. She pressed against Alex, deepening the kiss. "You're amazing...beautiful..."

In thanking Patrice, Alex wasted no time, pressing her back onto the sofa and ridding her of the rest of her clothing. And it was close beside Patrice, balancing precariously there that she found herself as their bodies cooled together. She smiled as she ran her fingers down Patrice's arm and kissed her shoulder. "Feeling better?"

Patrice sighed into the touch, coming back to herself as the moment subsided into quiet. She kissed Alex thoughtfully, giving her a small smile. "Yes...yes I think so." And she was, in one sense, but in another she knew she couldn't be. Being so happy only served to sharpen the sense of injustice.

So much of what was unspoken was clearly visible in Patrice's eyes, and Alex shifted, holding her closer, letting Patrice know that she understood, that they shared this with the contact. She twined their fingers together, sighing softly at the reminder that even the easiest things never were. But Alex let herself be content in each second that drifted by as Patrice's body cooled and warmed again next to hers. "If I asked..." She ran her thumb over Patrice's ring finger, half realizing that she had actually voiced the unfinished question.

Patrice glanced at Alex, eyes flickering in slight surprise. Still, she didn't find herself worried, or shocked, and the lack of those emotions was cause for surprise in and of itself. The question was more casual than anything in Alex's tone, but Patrice could hear the nuances behind and smiled more genuinely, not quite realizing as she nodded slightly in response. She didn't feel the need to explain, they were well beyond that. Instead she stood quietly and pulled Alex up with her. They would wait until Sabina got home to plan the evening, and it didn't seem too important at the moment anyway. She was tired from the emotion of the afternoon and needed respite from the rest of the world.

Chapter Text

Nathalie pushed a strand of her hair--the strand that always, no matter how long it got, insisted upon coming down from her ponytail--behind her ear before putting the lid back on her coffee cup. The skim milk contain was empty, and she was pretty sure that the two percent might have been spoiled. She wasn't thrilled about half and half, but the campus coffee shop was busy, and she just wanted to get to the library to do some work. It would be a treat, she told herself knowing full well that she'd just skip her afternoon granola bar because that would just be too much on top of the now almost too rich drink. Then she realized, as she was walking away, that she was thinking a great deal about her coffee. She cocked her head. It was almost obsessive but not quite. And she was okay with 'not quite.' There were just routines, and this was a tiny break in the routine. And that was okay...she wasn't going to freak out, but she had to compensate. And she had done that, so it was time to move on to thinking about something else as she made her way across campus.

Sabina was crossing from the library to the humanities building when she spotted Nathalie heading in the same direction. A quick jog brought her alongside and she smiled as she caught up. "Hey."

She almost dropped her coffee. Nathalie walked with purpose, chin up and steps quick. A side effect of that, however, was that she walked with a bit of tunnel vision as well. "Oh!" She just managed to save the coffee and keep it from spilling on her clothing or her books. And it was only after that that recognition dawned on her. Then Nathalie blushed, purpose disappearing completely. "Uhm, Sabina. Hey."

"Hi." Sabina quickly reached out and guided Nathalie over a crack in the sidewalk that she didn't seem to see. "Headed class?" Sabina was on her way to meet with her advisor but class seemed like a more logical assumption.

"Yes...I mean, no..." She shifted her bag on her shoulder as she registered Sabina's touch. "I was headed to borrow some books from a professor." She raised the notebook she was carrying in the crook of her arm. "Research..."

"Ah." Sabina grabbed the door and held it open for Nathalie. "Do you, um, wanna grab some lunch when you're done? I really just have to get some forms signed, so I shouldn't be too long..." There was something about Nathalie that was endearing and Sabina liked the idea of spending some time with her outside of the club.

"Lunch?" Nathalie looked down at her coffee then back up to Sabina. Was it time for lunch? She hadn't planned for that...or maybe she had. She remembered her granola. But it was hard to think beyond that when she was looking into Sabina's wide brown eyes. "Yeah," she said before even fully thinking about it, "that would be great..."

"Awesome." Sabina flashed a wide smile at Nathalie. "I've just got to go this way," she pointed down a side hallway. "Meet back here in few minutes?"

"Uh huh." Nathalie nodded, stuck in place or a moment as she watched Sabina walk away, the brunette's smile still registering for her. She licked her lips. They weren't at the club, and Lara was nowhere to be found. And this was...real life...and that was...well, it was real life too, but it was different. And she realized that Sabina was gone, and she was still standing there, kind of gaping. So she refocused and went to get her books.

Nathalie was nowhere to be seen when Sabina walked back into the hallway, but there was every chance that she had gotten sucked into a conversation with her professor. She didn't mind waiting and she leaned against a wall to do just that.

When Nathalie returned, she was much more composed, and she had gotten rid of her coffee, replacing it with a stack of books that was only slightly unwieldy. "Hey, sorry about that." She smiled apologetically, knowing she had kept Sabina waiting.

"It's fine." Sabina pushed off from the wall to join Nathalie. "Did you need some help with those?" She reached out for some of the books. "There's a really great Greek place around the corner, but if you had somewhere else in mind...?"

"No...Greek's good." She handed a few of the books over. "I like Greek." And Nathalie knew the place; she could always eat hummus or a salad. The Greeks really liked meat; she wondered how many vegetarians there were in Greece. Or Greek vegetarians in New York. But that was in the back of her mind because Sabina was walking close beside her, and their arms kept brushing against each other. "So...I didn't know you were in school," she said as they made there way there. It was stupid...because it's not like she would have known. But it was something besides "get whipped or paddled last night" to start a conversation.

"Yeah, one more year and it's back to Italy, or grad school, maybe. What are you studying?" Sabina opened the door to the restaurant and let Nathalie go in and find them a table. She slid into the booth and didn't bother to look at them menu. The place had become one of her favorite places to grab lunch over the past year, and she even had the specials memorized.

"I'm double majoring in International Relations and Metropolitan studies with a minor in German," she answered as she sat and flipped open a menu, glancing over it quickly. "Uhm...Italy, wow." She thought so, but she didn't want to assume. And now she didn't have to ask, which was good. "So, how did you end up here?" Of course, after she asked, Nathalie blushed, thinking she might already know the answer to that somewhat.

"Sardinia, actually. My family owns a vineyard there." She wasn't sure that Nathalie would even know where Sardinia was, Americans could be so bad with geography, be she was hopeful. And she was slightly impressed. German made no sense to her at all. "And I was going to the American University in Paris when I met Patrice and Alex. Officially, I was offered an amazing opportunity to study in New York and I'm staying with friends of my father because he was nervous about me living alone. Unofficially," Sabina smirked, "He's never met Patrice or Alex." She left off Therese's involvement, not wanting to confuse Nathalie, or make her think that she was bragging.

At that, Nathalie couldn't help but laugh. And laughing made her look much softer and less focused and worried about the world. "Wow...that's crazy...I mean, that you just met them and came and...good crazy, though." She paused so that the waiter could take their order and bring them glasses of water. "What are you studying? I mean...hopefully it's something that made coming to New York more work it..." That was certainly something that would factor in her decision...if she decided to do something like that. Nathalie thought briefly of Lara, wondering if she would have dropped everything for her.

"Film, so yeah, it was a dream chance. Even if I hadn't like them as much as I do, I might have done it anyway, just to go to school here." Sabina blushed slightly, hoping that Nathalie didn't think badly of her for that. "And it's worked out. If I hadn't come, I never would have found out that Therese is my great aunt." Sabina ripped apart her breadstick nervously. It was something that they tried to keep quiet, though it wasn't exactly a secret. "So, where are you from?"

Nathalie couldn't keep her eyebrows down at that, but she had the grace not to ask a ton of questions on the spot about it. Instead she bit her lip and smiled. "Oh just Connecticut...not that interesting."

Sabina shrugged. "I've never made it far out of the city, so you could tell me anything about it and I'd probably believe it."

If she lived with Alex and Patrice, Nathalie was sure she wouldn't really have any desire to make it out of the city. "It's nice. I like being in the city though. There's always something to do." And she was always doing something.

"Yeah." Sabina hadn't made it far out of the city, but Patrice and Alex had taken her to any number of places that most college students wouldn't get to go, not to mention the time she spent at the club. "There are times when I think I could stay here forever." She smiled at the waiter as he put her soup down in front of her and refilled her water glass.

"Stay here forever?" Nathalie looked at her almost like she was crazy. "Nowhere is worth staying forever." She grinned as she ran her fork through her salad.

Sabina smiled, "I just mean that I think I could spend my life exploring the city and never get tired of it. But I don't actually want to stay here forever. I'd miss Italy too much, and I want to get back to Paris. And then there are all of the places that I haven't been yet..."

Nathalie's grin became a little wider as she relaxed more visibly. Her mind was buzzing with hopes and dreams, and those weren't so easy to categorize and run through, and put in a box as the rest of her thoughts and routines were. "I know...it's all just out there waiting, you know?"

"Yeah. I mean, I moved to New York on a whim, basically. You have to just go and do things." Sabina finished her soup.

Whims were fine...as long as they were more carefully planned than the word suggested. Nathalie took a bite of her salad and chewed thoughtfully. "Is that how you, uhm, got to a place like the club?"

"That's, um, actually a bit more complicated, maybe too complicated for lunch. Lara and Therese were both involved..." Sabina shook her head. The entire thing seemed a bit surreal now. "Maybe I can tell you about it over dinner one night, or something?"

"Oh...dinner...yeah." Nathalie blinked. Sabina was asking her on a date. At least, she thought that's what it was. And while she was surprised, she was a little thrilled too. Then her face fell a bit. "Is...I mean...are Alex and Patrice...is it weird to ask if that's like...okay?"

Sabina shrugged. "As long as I tell them about it first, it should be fine. And if it isn't, it isn't like I won't enjoy the punishment. So...?" Sabina waited for a more certain answer than 'oh... dinner...yeah.'

Nathalie blushed thinking about it. "Uhm...okay, my week is kinda packed, but what about...does next Friday seem too far away?"

"Next Friday sounds great." It would give her time to talk to Alex and Patrice, and Patrice would be out of town, so she wouldn't have to worry about it disrupting any of their plans.

"Great..." Nathalie was pulling out her iPhone. "Let me just..." she murmured as she put the date into her planner. "There...awesome..."

"Cool." Sabina riffled around in her purse and pulled out some cash to pay for lunch. "I've go to get to class, but I'm really glad that I ran into you." She slid out of the booth and waited for Nathalie to join her before she headed out of the restaurant. Sabina leaned in and kissed her cheeks saying, "I'm looking forward to next Friday," before she turned and headed back towards campus.

"Me too..." Nathalie blinked, watching Sabina walk away. She could feel her cheeks blushing where the brunette had kissed them, and it was decidedly hard to organize her thoughts while still thinking about Sabina's lips.

Chapter Text

It had been a while since Patrice and Alex had confronted her, too long since she had sent Sabina that bottle of wine, and if she waited much longer, she would feel like a coward. The girl was her niece, not her brother, not a betrayed lover, just a confused girl. One that she at least owed a conversation. She walked out into the lounge, having asked Alex to bring the girl to the club. Once she saw them, Sabina uncharacteristically sitting on a couch instead of on the floor beside it, she walked over. "Thank you, Alex. Sabina..." she took a deep breath, "It is good to see you again."

The girl bit her lip and looked up to Alex before turning back to Therese. She was saved from a response when Alex put her hand on her shoulder. "I'll be in the gym..." Alex said. Sabina wasn't sure how she felt about that, but she appreciated Alex's attempt to give them privacy.

Therese nodded at Alex, watching her go for a long moment before she turned back to Sabina. "Why don't we go to my rooms, or my office..." There weren't many people in the lounge in the middle of the day, but she didn't want an audience and she tended to garner one when she was in the public areas of the club.

"I'd...rather stay here if you don't mind," Sabina said in Italian, using the dialect particular to their home. She knew no one there would understand it, but it took quite a bit of courage to make the suggestion.

Therese nodded and responded in kind. "Of course." She sat down next to Sabina. "I owe you an apology. I'm sorry that walked out on you in Paris. I was... startled and I over reacted. I hope that you'll accept that."

Sabina fidgeted. She could see her grandfather when she looked at Therese. They resembled each other, but there was something darker in Therese's eyes. She realized now that she had seen pictures of her aunt as a little girl, but she had always assumed, because there were none after a certain point, that the girl had died young. "When you left...it was...people looked at me differently."

"I'm sorry for that as well. I didn't..." She couldn't say that she hadn't considered that possibility. She hadn't in that moment, but as soon as her mind cleared, she knew it could happen. "I'm sorry." Therese looked more closely at Sabina, seeing her bother in her, and his son, and even her own mother. "If there is anything that I can do to make it up to you."

"They never said anything about you..." Sabina said quietly as she looked down at her hands. And she knew that if she said anything to her family about Therese being there, they would make her come home.

"They wouldn't have. Massimo disowned me, not that he had the right, but it was easier to leave, to live my life elsewhere, than to stay and try to fight him." Given the choice, she might not do the same thing again, but she didn't have that opportunity. "It was a different time..."

Sabina sat up a little straighter at this. It was completely new to her that her grandfather's sister had been disowned, and she couldn't help but be a little curious. "But why would he do that?" Her grandfather was a kind man, if a little stern.

Therese chuckled a bit bitterly. "Do you know Luigi Abruzzi?" He would be an even more distant cousin of Sabina's than her was of her and it was possible that the man long dead.

"His son, I suppose, or maybe his grandson." It made sense that Luigi would have had children. "Well, Luigi caught me in bed with his wife and a riding crop. Massimo was livid."

The brunette's eyes went wide. "He...oh..." She shook the images out of her head as she tried to reconcile that with her image of her grandfather.

"He does?" Therese couldn't hide her shock. The Massimo that she knew... Well, it had been quite a while since she could say that she knew Massimo.

Sabina nodded gravely. She suspected it might have something to do with the fact that she was one of the youngest of the grandchildren and one of the few girls. "Maybe...you could talk to him again?"

"Maybe." Therese wouldn't rule it out, but she didn't think it likely. "It's been a very long time. I would, however, like to talk to you again." She was still a bit amazed that Sabina had walked into her life, that she had some sort of connection to her family after so many years without.

The brunette blushed lightly and took a long sip of her wine. "I'd like that," she said quietly.

"Good." Therese nodded and sipped her own wine, smiling gently at Sabina. If the club had been more crowded, people probably would have gaped at her, not used to her looking anything but stern, but Sabina wasn't like any of the club's other members, and Therese would readily acknowledge that.

Chapter Text

Page shifted Bailey on her hip as she got off of the elevator and turned towards Patrice's office. She didn't see the attorney's assistant anywhere, but through the doorway, she could see that the blonde was alone and not on the phone. She knocked lightly on the door, shifting Bailey again. "Ms. LaRue, hi...sorry I'm a little late."

Patrice smiled warmly and pushed back from her desk, standing to greet Page. The woman was going to be an important witness in her patent case, and she was lucky to have gotten her time. However, she was slightly surprised to see she brought her daughter to the deposition. "Page, thank you again for coming. The court reporter is setting up in one of the conference rooms, and the other lawyers are starting to arrive." She shifted her gaze to the child in the blonde's arms, "And I see you've brought an assistant?" She smiled again.

Bailey smiled at Patrice for a second before burying her face in her mother's neck. Page smiled apologetically before kissing the top of Bailey's head as she walked in. "Hey, no hiding," Page whispered softly. "Looks that way. I'm so sorry...I had a babysitter lined up, and she called at the last minute. And I just don't know anyone else in the city."

Patrice considered the situation; the firm was big but not big enough to offer childcare. "Well, we'll think of something I'm sure." Patrice couldn't really reschedule at this point, and Page's input was going to be invaluable to her case. Well, not really invaluable, the case was worth about five million to her client over the next several years. "My assistant is out running a few errands, but maybe when he gets back they could go to the park or something?"

"Oh, good...I caught you..." Alex called as she jogged--in her pumps--up to Patrice's door. For a moment, she seemed not to notice Page. "You took my keys...and yours this morning, and Sabina left her phone... Oh." Alex smiled apologetically to Page, who merely stepped to the side.

Patrice blushed only for a moment at the rather informal nature of the conversation. "Oh...sorry about that." She turned back and rummaged in her things, producing the keys a moment later. As she handed them back she paused, a small smile on her lips, "Alex, can I ask how busy your afternoon is?"

"It's..." Alex cocked her head as she dropped the keys into her purse. She was mentally running through her schedule, noting what could be moved if necessary and what she could do at home that night. "It's not bad...what's up?" She glanced to the woman and little girl before looking back to Patrice curiously.

Bailey looked at the new person, grabbing onto her mother's shoulder and hoping that she really was going to get to go to the park.

"Good, maybe you can save me here." She stepped back around the desk, "Alex this is Page. She's my expert witness for the depo this afternoon, and her babysitter has canceled. Might you have time for a little trip to the park?" Patrice turned her smile to Alex, letting her know it was both important, and was a favor Alex could look forward to calling in later.

As Alex was extending her hand to Page, she hoped there wasn't a look of absolute terror on her face. At least it wasn't a baby; she couldn't have even fathomed that. And the little girl looked harmless and docile enough. But they always looked that way when they were with their parents. Alex managed a smile. "Of course; it's such a nice day out."

Page smiled warmly and shook Alex's hand. She could see a little bit of unease in the blonde's eyes, but she trusted that Patrice wouldn't ask someone completely incompetent to watch her daughter, even if that person was, as it seemed, her partner. "I...really, thank you so much..."

Patrice smiled, noting Alex trying to get a grip on the situation, and wondered just exactly what she might be in for later that night. Still, she had a case to prepare, "Thanks Alex, I think we'll be about 2 or 3 hours. I'll call you when we are wrapping up?"

"Sure..." Alex smiled to the little girl and held out her hand. "Hey there. I'm Alex, and it looks like you and I are headed to the park. Are you going to tell me your name, or should I ask your mom?"

Bailey clung to Page for a second before she squirmed out of her arms. "I'm Bailey." She looked up at Alex with wide eyes. "Are we going to a good park?"

"It's...a park..." Alex's mind raced as she tried to remember where exactly the playgrounds were. She could hear Patrice ushering Page out of her office just as she and Bailey got into the elevator. She found herself leaning against the back of the elevator, trying to calm down. She was just to the part where she was telling herself that she was a strong, educated woman who could handle rapists and thugs and bullets when the doors opened. "Maybe we'll get some ice cream or...cotton candy or something."

"Okay." Bailey looked up at Alex and grabbed her hand. "I'm not supposed to go outside without holding your hand."

"Right...of course." Alex smiled, getting a better grip on Bailey's hand as she looked down into the girl's wide eyes. She let Bailey chatter as they made their way to the park, thankfully finding one of the playgrounds Alex passed when she used to--sporadically--run in the mornings. "How about...hmm..." She looked around, weighing the health hazards of each piece of equipment. "Why don't I push you on the swings. Does that sound good?"

She rubbed her head as she followed, and wished she'd actually taken some babysitting jobs in high school. But Alex quickly justified it much in the same way she imagined Bailey did; if the little girl's father didn't tell her mother, neither would she. "Just hold on tight, okay?" Alex said as she pulled Bailey back and pushed her gently, making sure she wouldn't go to high. "So, do you get to go places with your mommy a lot?"

Bailey shook her head, thrilling at getting to go so high on the swing. It felt like flying, like she was a bird. "Sometimes. Daddy had to go someplace too and Gamma's too old to keep me by herself." The last part sounded more like a recitation than an actual assessment.

Alex chuckled lightly. "That sounds like a lot of fun, and New York is a long way from home, isn't it?" Patrice had told her that her expert was coming from Seattle, and Alex was finding it surprisingly easy to talk to Bailey, who seemed all smiles and cute phrases. No one was crying yet, so she was counting the outing a success thus far.

"Yeah. We were on the plane for a long time." Bailey pumped her legs harder and when she was sure she couldn't get any higher, she jumped out of the swing and flew through the air.

Alex's eyes went wide as she pushed the swing forward and hurried towards Bailey, her heels sinking into the gravel--probably ruining the leather, but that was the least of her worries. She knelt and took the little blonde by the shoulders. "Are you okay?"

Baliey looked up at Alex, giggling. "Can we do it again?"

"I'm not sure that jumping off of swings is part of this day package. Why don't we try the slide," Alex suggested as she stood.

"Okay." Slides were Bailey's second favorite thing in the park, after the swings. She ran over to the closest one, even though it was the highest and started climbing.

Alex rubbed her head again, as she was sure that was the worst thing she could have suggested. Bailey would probably fracture her skull, and Page would probably file suit. And Patrice would probably have her sleeping on the sofa for a night. But before she knew it, the little girl was giggling and coming down and jumping off of the slide, into her arms.

Bailey wriggled back out of Alex's arms and climbed up the slide again. She could do it over and over again, and she did. Finally, she started to get tired and she walked back over to Alex.

"Done for the day?" Alex held out her hand, mentally calculating the time they had left. They could stop for ice cream on the way back to the penthouse. She was sure Bailey would like the dogs; all kids liked dogs.

Bailey nodded and held her arms up to Alex, waiting to be picked up. "Up, please."

There was the distant ring of toddlerhood in Bailey's voice, and Alex couldn't resist taking her into her arms, even though the little girl was probably getting too big for it. If her mother was still doing it, it probably wasn't a problem. Alex settled Bailey on her hip, getting used to the weight. "I think there's an ice cream vendor around here somewhere," she said, smiling. "Think we should stop and get some?"

Bailey nodded and put her head on Alex's shoulder. The playground had temporarily tired her out and she was content to rest there for the moment.

A short walk later, and Alex found the vendor she had seen there as they walked by the first time. She procured two cones, against her better judgement, and settled them on a bench, letting Bailey sit on her lap with a pile of napkins. This wasn't really so bad after all.

Bailey attacked her ice cream with relish, proceeding to get it all over her face. She was enjoying it far too much to notice that the bottom of the cone was dripping and that it was slowly melting all over her hands. Finally, Alex abandoned her own cone and contented herself with cleaning up as Bailey went along. The little girl didn't seem to mind too much as she continued to eat.

"You look like you could use a few more napkins, I always carry extras." Ever the mother, Carin produced the papers, holding them out to the blonde and her daughter. "That's brave to go for cones on a warm day." She smiled and chuckled as the child slipped off the woman's lap, handing the cone over. "Your daughter's adorable."

"Oh, I..." Alex took the napkins and wiped her own hands off. She was just about to say that she was merely watching Bailey for a friend, but something stopped her. The little girl's blonde hair, her blue eyes...she could easily belong to either Alex are Patrice. And there was something so overwhelming, so sweet about the idea, that Alex merely smiled. "Thank you..."

"No....Jennie....you might hit someone..." Carin smiled at Alex and pointed to where another little girl with auburn hair was starting to toss rocks into the trees. "Anytime, enjoy your afternoon..."

"You too...thanks again," Alex said, holding up the napkins and smiling. She could see Patrice just as easily going up to someone that way, taking care to make sure a child--their child--wasn't hurting anyone else. It had never occurred to her before...as something to want; so, Alex really had no idea how strongly the desire would hit her. It was certainly something to talk to Patrice about. "Hey, Bailey, I think we might need to go wash off. How do you feel about dogs?"

"I want a dog, but Mommy says that she's gone too much and Daddy says that he doesn't have the space." Clearly, these were trivial concerns to Bailey as she walked with Alex into the bathroom.

"Yeah?" Alex held Bailey up to a sink, letting her wash her hands. She could take care of the rest when they got back, and it seemed like Bailey would talk until then.

Bailey nodded, wiping her hands on her pants after Alex let go of them. "But if I can go places with Mommy, a puppy could too. And Daddy can always stay at our house whenever he takes care of me when Mommy's gone." It made sense to her.

"Puppies get big, you know?" Alex said. She took Bailey's hand and led her out, deciding to catch a cab home.

Bailey shrugged and climbed into the cab. "There was a guy with a dog bigger than me on our flight here. I saw him at the ticket counter."

Touché. "Was there? Why don't you tell me about him?" And that's what Bailey did, right up until the point where Alex opened the front door and Porcelain and Persia stood up to greet her.

Bailey's eyes went even wider when she saw the dogs. "Wow." She held her hands out where they could sniff them, just like Mommy had taught her. "They're pretty."

Alex smiled softly, impressed that the girl didn't grab as some overzealous children sometimes did when she took them for walks. "That one's Persia and this one's Porcelain," she said, stroking Porcelain's head as Persia licked Bailey's hands.

Bailey giggled and threw herself at Persia, wrapping her arms around her now that she seemed safe.

And Alex thanked God she hadn't done that to Porcelain. The white dog probably wouldn't have done anything but growled, but Alex didn't want to take the chance. And as it stood, Persia was happily licking ice cream off of Bailey's face. "Come on...let's get you all cleaned up, then maybe we can find some...cartoons." Alex headed towards the kitchen, making note to keep Bailey out of the bedroom, as remnants of last night were still scattered about. She checked her watch, noting that Patrice would probably be calling soon.

Bailey went with Alex into the kitchen and suffered to be cleaned up, though she though that the dog had done a perfectly good job. "Mommy makes the screens that they show cartoons on."

"Does she? That's pretty neat." Alex led Bailey into the living room and flipped around before finding something. Then she made sure to get her phone, guessing the Patrice would call her cell. She had no idea what she'd put on the television, but she figured it was all the same.

It wasn't her favorite show, but Bailey was happy enough with what Alex found and she settled down to watch.

Alex settled beside her and found herself putting her arm around Bailey's shoulder. She smiled to herself, wondering why she and Patrice hadn't really talked about this before. The answer was simple enough...they were busy, their lives were very full, and there was always something else around the corner. But Sabina would be leaving them in a year, and Alex found herself entertaining the possibility of wanting a Bailey to be around the corner.

The deposition had gone even better than Patrice could have expected. Page was going to be a star witness. At the last break she slipped away to call Alex and let her know, the phone rang twice before the other blonde picked up, "Hey, how're you holding up? I think we're about through here."

"Great...we're at home watching a cartoon about..." Alex got up, noting that Bailey was too engrossed to notice when she stepped out of the room, "well, I'd say it was about an acid trip, but I don't think that's right." Alex chuckled. "It's...actually been a really nice afternoon. And I was actually hoping it might end with me taking you to a quiet dinner." So they could talk a little.

Patrice chuckled and raised an eyebrow, that wasn't the reaction she was expecting at all, but she wasn't about to question her good luck. "I have no objection to that. See you soon then?"

"That sounds good." Alex hung up and went back to Bailey, almost hating to have to take her back. "Bailey, it's time to go back to your mom."

"Oh. Okay." Bailey sounded a little disappointed. She liked Alex and the cartoon was only halfway over.

"Maybe we'll get to watch cartoons again another day, okay?" Alex held out her hand, sensing the drop in Bailey's mood. She was certain it wouldn't last past the car ride, if that long.

"'Kay." Bailey took her hand and held it tightly as they went down in the elevator and got in the cab

By the time they walked into Patrice's office, Alex was holding Bailey again. She thought she saw Jacob picking his jaw up off of his desk as he hastily went from staring at her to rearranging the papers that always seemed to be lingering there. She closed the door behind her as Bailey scrambled down to her mother.

"Hey there." Page grinned and held her arms out. "Did you have a good day?"

Bailey nodded, excited again. "We went to the park, and Alex let me jump off of the swings and then I went on the slide and we got ice cream and Alex has really pretty dogs."

Alex rubbed her head. That wasn't how that was supposed to go; however, she could always please ignorance...semi-ignorance at least. She went to Patrice and smiled. "Well, I hope you don't mind," she said, hoping that covered swings and ice cream and any other transgression.

"No..." Page looked up and gave a small smile as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "Thank you so much for taking her."

"It was fine, really. I'd be happy to do it again," Alex said, waving her off.

Patrice smiled quietly, glad Alex seemed to actually have had a good time and nodded to Page, "Thank you again for your time, and we'll be in touch about the trial date. Let me walk you out."

Alex took a seat, waving to Bailey as the three of them walked out. She smiled to herself as she went over the events of the day in her mind. It had neither drug nor went by too quickly, and Alex was satisfied with her end. But less clinically than that, she found that she enjoyed it, that she wouldn't mind if when being told her child was adorable the child was actually hers.

After seeing Page and Bailey off Patrice stepped back into her office. She crossed her arms casually and smiled at Alex, "Thanks again, you totally saved me today, how was it? Or would you rather discuss it over that dinner you mentioned earlier?"

"It was good." Alex got up and leaned against the desk, pulling Patrice in for a quick kiss. "It was nice...actually, and it made me think..." She rubbed Patrice's arms thoughtfully as her eyes wandered to the door, to the imaginary trail their footsteps had left behind.

Patrice regarded Alex inquisitively, now convinced that the other blonde wasn't about to call in her favor and send her home to wait with Sabina, or produce a collar from her purse. "Yeah? About what?"

Alex pushed off of the desk. "Can we make it an early dinner, or do you need to be here for a while longer?" She didn't want to bring this up in Patrice's office, where any number of distractions could walk through the door or land in her inbox or call at any moment.

Patrice looked over the office, trying to think if there was anything lurking there that couldn't wait for the morning, "No, I think I can call it quits for the day. The reporter and the other lawyers have already left from upstairs." She put her things together to leave, "Where do you want to go?"

"Home...actually," she said after thinking about it for a moment. "Sabina has her late class today, and I think she was going to meet with one of her study groups afterwards. We should have it to ourselves." She smiled as she took Patrice's case and shouldered it as she ushered the blonde out of her office. Alex was quiet in the elevator, even with knowing that Patrice's curiosity would soon get the better of her. "You know, I had no idea that ice cream proliferated that much after having melted," she said as they got into a cab.

Patrice almost choked on her laughter. That was nearly the last thing she expected to hear from the other blonde. "You learn something new every day I suppose." She shook her head slightly and kissed Alex's cheek.

Alex was content with thoughtful silence up until the point when she turned her key in the lock of their front door. "Someone..." Alex shook her head lightly, a slight, self-deprecating smile appearing on her face. "Someone mistook her for mine."

She glanced at Alex, seeing her expression change to....well Patrice wasn't sure she'd seen that look on the other blonde's face before. She pulled her into the living room and sat. "Well, I suppose I could see someone making that assumption." Patrice didn't think too much of the comment, but when Alex didn't continue or change the subject she started to feel that it was more than a casual statement. "Did it...bother you?" She couldn't see why it should, but Alex was acting strangely.

"No...not at all." She took Patrice's hands thoughtfully. "It just made me realize that we haven't talked about it at all."

Patrice finally started to see where this could be headed, and gave Alex a sideways glance. They hadn't talked about it at all because it had never seemed like something she could see Alex wanting really. There had always been a part of Patrice that wanted the proverbial white picket fence, complete with two beautiful blonde kids and soccer practice. Between career and the rest of life she'd started to move past feeling like she needed it. She was happy with Alex, and didn't feel like much, if anything was missing. Patrice kissed Alex's fingers, "No...no we haven't. I suppose I'm surprised to hear you bring it up." She grinned, "So Bailey was a good influence then?"

"I'd say so..." Alex laughed lightly. It seemed only natural that Patrice was surprised. She herself was surprised. And while it might be a passing fancy, a sudden desire to have something she never really thought she wanted, Alex felt like it was worth mentioning, worth discussing. Wisconsin had made her feel like having anything too dear might not be worth the risk, but Patrice had slowly unwound that coil. And with her, Alex realized she could build those things if she was careful, conscientious enough. "My mother certainly expected grandchildren, and I guess it was something I always thought I might get around to. But I never really thought about it, I never really realized I wanted it until today."

She felt her heart quicken for a moment, and Patrice couldn't help as a smile grew on her lips. They were only speaking hypothetically of course, but still she couldn't deny being a little excited at the thought. "Well I can't deny it's something I've wanted, but with the rest of life...I think we both know how it goes." She looked a little sheepish, "Honestly, I never brought it up because I didn't think you'd be interested."

She put an arm around the blonde's shoulders and drew her close. "I can't tell you what I would have said if you had, but...God, I want that, and I want it with you." Alex kissed Patrice's temple softly, thoughtfully. "In the past year and a half, I've made room for so many things in my life that I thought I could never have..."

Patrice blushed slightly, turning to kiss Alex fully. She spoke a little more quietly, seriously, "I want that too." There really wasn't a whole lot more than that to say, and they sat quietly for a moment. "Should we discuss this over some dinner maybe?" Patrice knew it would fall into place, could feel it, and the whole shift was making her look forward to the simplicity of a quiet night with Alex.

"I think that's a good idea," Alex replied, the kiss still lingering on her lips. "I'll get my keys." She squeezed Patrice's should before standing. Things seemed to be falling even more in place, and with that came the rising fear of everything being swept away. But Alex pushed that aside, replaced it with excitement, with new desires. She told herself that she could have these things, and she felt a small thrill in her chest when she believed it.

Chapter Text

Liz sipped her water, listening to the clink of the ice in her glass and wishing that she wasn't in trial where she could have something stronger. Of course, it was the trial that made her want something stronger. She was only half listening to Alex's complaints, as she already knew what they would amount to. They had had the same conversation, or variations on it, many times over the years. "Yes, he's a jackass He's always been a jackass and he's always going to be a jackass." She rolled her eyes and picked at the remains of her salad.

Alex pursed her lips and decided to keep the rest of the thoughts to herself. She had heard that tone before both in and out of the workplace, and she knew Liz not only didn't want to hear any more but also might prefer to do something completely inappropriate in public should Alex continue. She contented herself with peeling a grape as she scanned the room, gaze falling on a dark haired young woman who had just walked in.

Brett relaxed slightly and ran a hand through her hair when she caught sight of her mother sitting across the room. Something about this trip was finally going right. Liz was exactly where her secretary said she would be. Brett had been worried that she would already be back at the courthouse, and she knew that by the time that she got back there, she would be in session again and Brett would have to wait for a recess to talk to her. Brett only gave the blonde with her a cursory glance. There was every chance that she was sleeping with Liz, and for some reason, after meeting Page, after spending time with Page, she found that other women just weren't as interesting. It was an uncomfortable feeling, but she was slowly getting used to it. She pulled out a chair at the table and practically fell into it, letting her overnight bag drop to the floor.

That the brunette barely paid her any mind surprised Alex less than it irked her. She hadn't heard that Liz had taken a new pet, and it certainly seemed like something Liz would tell her. She pursed her lips, raising her eyebrows at the judge, who looked just as surprised as she did.

"Brett, I had no idea you were in town." Liz broke into a warm smile as she leaned to embrace her.

Brett wrapped her arms around her, resting her head on her shoulder briefly. "I've been flying for, like, two days and I just got in. You have no idea how happy I am that I caught you before you went back to work." She ran her hand through her hair again and stole Liz's water glass.

Alex cleared her throat lightly, having expected an introduction moments before. She had never seen Liz so indulgent in public, and it was slightly disconcerting.

The cough reminded Liz, though she had briefly forgotten about Alex, that she was being incredibly rude. "Alex, this is my daughter, Brett." Liz stole her glass back as a waiter brought Brett her own. "Brett, this is Alex Cabot."

Brett held her hand out. "It's a pleasure." Her British accent was lighter around her mother, but still audible. "Mom's mentioned you. I'm, um, glad you're not dead." She smiled, only realizing after she said it that Alex might not appreciate the reminder.

"Likewise...on both accounts." Alex tried to make her face as absolutely placid as possible, but she knew it was a losing battle. That Liz had been married was unremarkable; that she had a daughter who couldn't have been younger than Alex by more than five or six years was something akin to earth shattering. She refrained from noting that Liz had said absolutely nothing about Brett...ever.

"So, are you joining us for lunch?" Liz knew Brett would get around to telling her why she was in town eventually. "You know that your father's in town?"

The brunette blinked. "No, I didn't. God, he's not staying with you, is he?" If he was, Brett was going to have to find someplace else to stay.

Liz shook her head and chuckled lightly. "No, I believe he's staying with Therese."

"Therese is here too? I didn't count on a family reunion when I left London. Of course, I expected to be in Seattle, which is actually why I'm here. I left my keys to your place at home." She was hoping that Liz would give her her car keys too, but she wasn't going to ask.

Alex thought she might throw up. She pushed her salad aside and took a deep breath, trying not to let her thoughts wander to nights with Jonas and Liz...and Therese. Naturally, she failed, and she found herself looking at anything but Brett as Liz pulled a set of keys out of her purse. "I'm sure you'll be fine taking the metro today," Liz said as if reading Brett's mind.

"Thanks." Brett sighed as she took the keys "but I'll just get a cab." She was far too tired to deal with the metro. She took another long drink of water before she pushed her chair back. "It was nice to meet you." She nodded to Alex as she stood. "I guess I'll see you tonight." Brett smiled at her mother and picked up her bag. She desperately needed a nap. She could think about finding Page and dealing with her father and Therese later.

As soon as Brett was out of sight, Alex turned to Liz, possibly a little to vehemently. "Are you..." She shook her head, trying to find words without sputtering. "You and Jonas have... Jesus Christ, Liz..."

Liz merely raised her eyebrows at Alex's minor tirade. "Jonas and I have a daughter, yes." She sighed, "And Therese is her godmother."

"Christ..." She rubbed her head and tried to simply reconcile all of this. "You never said anything. There are no pictures in your house...there's..." Alex shook her head.

"All of the pictures are in albums. She did that herself when she was in high school and I've never bothered to take them back out. Knowing her, she'd just do it again." Liz shrugged. Brett could be just as stubborn as she was. "And all of the artwork is hers." In fact, Liz's house was full of Brett's artwork.

"Oh..." Alex's eyes went wide. Liz had some beautiful pieces in her house, but she had never thought to ask about them. And she'd certainly never asked anything about Liz's past that she hadn't been told. It was something of an unspoken boundary. "Well, I...it was nice to meet her..."

Liz smiled slightly. "I suppose she'll tell me just why she's in town eventually." Liz checked her watch and reached for her purse. "And I have to get back to the courthouse."

"Of course..." Alex paid the check and let Liz go without saying anything else. She needed a cup of coffee and to simply get back to work. Lunch had been much more than what she expected.

Chapter Text

Patrice blinked as she watched Alex's back receding into the mist—though she wasn't sure why there was mist in the airport. Something must have been wrong with the ventilation system. Alex's hair was bright, and it bounced in soft curls around her shoulders as she turned around. Her glasses gleamed.

"Alex, wait," Patrice called, her voice echoing.

The blonde pursed—almost pouted, really—her lips. "I have a flight to catch."

"What? No…you can't just run off to…God knows where to do… Are Sabina and I not good enough for you anymore? Has this all been something to keep you busy until the next time you disappear?"

"I was…" Alex looked into the ether, as if grasping for the word. "Inspired. That's it. I was inspired."

Patrice put her hands on her hips. Ether and echo aside, this was ridiculous. "What…are you going to come back in three weeks with a new pair of frames?"

Alex pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. "It isn't as easy to be just as it used to be."

She went through the week in her mind, not buying the inspiration line at all. Suddenly, it came to Patrice. "Is this about last Tuesday? Because I told you I was just tired!" It would be just like Alex to make up some bullshit about inspiration and fly halfway around the world because she'd been put off...once.

While she shouldn't have expected anything else, Patrice was mildly annoyed when Alex merely crossed her arms.

"Fine!" Patrice threw up her hands even though she really couldn't believe she was throwing up her hands. "Go ahead… But I'm suing for custody of the housegirl." Alex's eyes went wide in shock, and she stepped back as if it had hit her. Patrice couldn't help but take the beat. It was there. "And the penthouse."

"And the dogs too? Is there no low to which you won't sink?" The ether suddenly cleared.

"And there's always support for the housegirl—lingerie is expensive, you know. In fact, I'll take your rooms at the club too; there's no sense in letting a good suite go to waste." Patrice put her hands on her hips and noted that her jacket seemed just a little bit too tight.

"But I was inspired!" And that was so odd because Patrice wasn't convinced by it at all. Inspiration was for chefs.

Alex looked like she was going to turn and go. She was reaching for her carryon, so Patrice had no choice but to try a different tactic. She put her hand on Alex's. "But if you go…who will whip Sabina?"

She watched Alex's face, which seemed, suddenly, to be in soft focus as her bright blue eyes began to moisten. It was working, but Patrice kept her own bright blue eyes, bigger and possibly more expressive—because there were simply some things Patrice was better at than Alex—unblinking and pleading.

"You're right…" Alex seemed to be coming back to herself, but the ether had returned. "Who would whip Sabina?" Now she looked inspired. "I'm sorry…I'll stay…" Patrice was surprised when Alex pulled her close and she noticed a luggage carousel appear behind the blonde. "God, Patrice, take me here…now…" Alex let go of her but only to rend her blouse, revealing a black, lacy bra that oddly didn't seem to be showing through the pristine—well, ripped now—white shirt.

Well, the luggage carousel made more sense…except that it seemed a bit ridiculous, possibly even dangerous to have sex there. And while Alex's behavior was strange, it was strangely compelling. But Patrice pulled away.

"Not until you rip up your ticket…and the backup you have in your bag." Because that was something she would do.

Alex pursed her lips again and pulled her ticket out of her bra. She was about to tear it in half, when she looked up at Patrice thoughtfully. "Am I going to have to cut up my AmEx too?"

"No, I'll just have to confiscate that…along with your passport. Yeah."

She went back to nearly ripping the ticket, and Patrice could almost swear she heard dramatic piano music. Or was it strings? Then Alex stopped. "No…I can't. Patrice, I have to go…because I'm a lesbian."

Well, Patrice certainly hoped so. She furrowed her brow. "So am I, and I don't feel compelled to go anywhere but home."

Alex shook her head and sighed, as if she knew something that Patrice didn't, that Patrice should know. "Oh, Patrice, you just don't get it…" And she didn't; it almost seemed as if Alex was marginalizing her in some way, as if she were suggesting that Patrice wasn't quite as important as her.

Patrice didn't like that one bit. "How could you do this to me? After everything you made me do in public…"

The blonde looked confused. "Is this about asking you to walk the dogs?"

She narrowed her eyes. "One mention of the club, and I could ruin you! You'll never be a senator in…" Something wasn't entirely right, and Patrice had to shake her head to bring herself back to…herself. "Nevermind. You can't go…Sabina…whippings…" And her pleading, pleading, soft focus eyes!

"I can't…I can't let myself be tempted. I'll never be like Saint Olisk…anyway, temptation…inspiration…" Alex shook her head and grabbed her carryon again.

Patrice was becoming desperate, but she didn't show it. She knew she had to change tactics, and the universe knew too because suddenly the lights dimmed. She felt the heat of a spotlight on her, specifically on her chest, and she undid one button on her blouse.

"Yes, you can…you can!"

She could hear Alex take in a shuddering breath. "Is that…a silver catsuit underneath your shirt."

"Actually," Patrice said, tone flat and face completely calm, "it's blue." And she watched Alex shudder, nearly moan. Patrice saw her chance, and she pulled Alex close, into a sweeping turn, and she briefly wondered where she had learned such mad ballroom dancing skills. She kissed her after dipping her low, Alex's soft curls brushing the airport floor.

And once they were standing again and Patrice was satisfied that she had, indeed, triumphed, she looked at Alex in the suddenly normal lighting. "Please tell me you weren't really going to get on a plane in that," she said, taking in the blonde's uncharacteristically, well, slutty outfit. But before Alex answered, she felt the ether return, closing in on her.

Patrice sat straight up, gasping as she woke. She wasn't sure if it was the fading memory of a really bad pair of pumps or the lingering uncertainty she felt in dreaming of an Alex so changed from the woman who was sleeping peacefully beside her. She looked to the bedside table where Alex's glasses sat by the clock, and she almost expected to see them gleam…almost.

Chapter Text

Alex ran her fingers through her hair as she walked past Jacob and through Patrice's open door, shutting it with a sound thud. She pursed her lips as she marched up to the blonde's desk and placed both hands on it, leaning down. She had just gotten back that morning from a couple of days of work in Boston, and while she typically enjoyed the drive, her eyes showed fatigue. But that was hardly the problem, and she hadn't planned to take the rest of the day off of work. "There is absolutely no reason why you or Sabina should have left your takeout from last night on the counter." She assumed that someone had pulled it out to pack some for lunch or to nibble on for breakfast. "Do you know what I had to do right after I got in the morning? I had to take Persia to the vet, and then I had to go home and clean the living room and the kitchen. That is not how I planned on spending my day." She glared down at Patrice through her glasses.

Patrice looked up as Alex walked in, smiling, as she hadn't seen Alex in a few days. Quickly, however, her face fell as she noted the other blonde's expression. At the end of her litany of accusations, Patrice placed her pen on the file she was looking over. She tried not to let it get to her, to snap back. She knew how Alex could get at times and it wouldn't be worth it, but she couldn't help a comment. The blonde's voice was strained to keep control, "It's nice to see you too Alex. And I'm very sorry you had to deal with that, though you could have called me." She leaned back slightly away from Alex, "But please don't speak to me like that, I had no idea anything was left out, and I'm sure it was an honest mistake." She waited to see if the other woman's edge would subside.

"That doesn't really make up for my having completely lost a day of work, does it?" Alex snapped. The trip had been frustrating, and what she had hoped to return to was a hot shower in her own bathroom before getting back to it. And even though Patrice expertly kept the edge of her voice, Alex could imagine it being there. She narrowed her eyes and rounded the desk, feeling slightly better at closing the distance between them. If Patrice couldn't make up for her lost time, she would make sure Patrice lost some of her own. "Have Jacob clear the rest of your day," she said.

Patrice crossed her arms; Alex was getting out of hand. "I can't just do that, I think you should go calm down." There wasn't anything particularly necessary she had to be at the office for, but it was a matter of principle. She turned back to her desk, trying not to look too long at Alex's eyes, the anger and frustration was morbidly enticing but she wasn't about to just do as she was told. Really, that was Sabina's role.

A long moment passed where the tension between them simply mounted, making the air thick. Then, Alex reached down and grabbed the back of Patrice's neck, forcing the blonde to look back up at her. She held her eyes before leaning down, kissing her fiercely. "Have Jacob cancel the rest of your day," she repeated, each word clipped. If she could have pulled Sabina from class too, she might have, but that part of Sabina's life was off limits to this one. The same wasn't always true for Patrice or for her.

She gasped slightly as Alex pulled back. That move told Patrice all she needed to know about the real reason for the request. It likely wasn't about the loss of hours at all, but Alex wasn't ready to give that up yet. Her heart quickened for a moment, but the tension, the heat was still there. Alex didn't want her to just be docile yet, and she certainly wasn't ready to. "Tell him yourself." Jacob was used to the range of strange requests from her, and it wouldn't matter.

"Alright." She would punish Patrice for that, but she could afford to wait. Alex moved her hand from Patrice's neck, to her hair, grasping it tightly. She picked up the phone. "Jacob, something's come up at home, and Patrice and I both need to be there to take care of it. She needs you to clear her afternoon." Her voice was absolutely calm, almost pleasant, and Alex's features lightened as she spoke. But when she hung up the phone and looked down to Patrice, her eyes were hard again. "Get up. We're taking a little outing."

Patrice watched as Alex made the call, letting herself pout, getting more settled in the role though she still wasn't sure she deserved it. The blonde tried to twist away, but found that Alex had more than a firm hold on her. "Now Alex? Where could we possibly need to go right now?" She was caught between wanting to fight back and knowing that when Alex was in this mood, things could get interesting.

Alex gave her a hard look and tugged Patrice's hair, knowing the blonde would stand after a moment of that. She let go long enough to watch Patrice get her things, and as they walked out, she put her hand on the small of Patrice's back. The touch was light, and she looked pleasant enough for the benefit of the office, but it was meant to be a reminder that she was still in charge. In the elevator, she turned to Patrice, kissing her firmly again. "I'm not in the mood for questions," she said as they got out and went to her car.

As she drove, Alex kept a hand on Patrice's thigh but otherwise ignored the blonde who was crossing her arms and pouting. She pulled into a hotel's garage that doubled as parking for the club, among other things, and got out, going around to open Patrice door. She had no doubt that Patrice would now know where they were. She walked into a side entrance, hand still on Patrice's back, and she pulled out a set of keys while they were in the elevator. Alex rarely used them, and she wasn't sure Liz or Therese remembered she had them. But she didn't worry about that, merely unlocking the large doors to the main hallway when they got out. She let her anger and frustration build, letting them overshadow any reasons for why they might be there in the first place, as they walked to the lounge. The room was shadowy, save for the lights over the bar that remained on. She took Patrice to it and pushed her face down over it. "I don't think we'll be interrupted here."

It wasn't until they were nearly at the doors that Patrice knew where they were going. She was incredulous, almost too surprised to react. There she was, in the middle of her workday, in her suit, and Alex had the audacity to expect her to just play along. She made a noise something between a moan and a growl as her cheek hit the surface, and she twisted back to glare at the other blonde, "What the hell, Alex? Is this really appropriate?" It was obvious that it wasn't ...not in any sense, but Patrice had to say something as her mind and body were sharply at odds with each other in the moment.

"Do you really care?" Alex snapped in response. On some level, she knew that what was truly inappropriate was her uncontrollable desire to channel her fatigue and anger, anger that was really at herself, into an accident and to take advantage of the nature of their relationship as an outlet. Liz would have been appalled, and Alex knew she would apologize profusely later for being out of line. But all of that was too distant for her to reach. She pushed Patrice's skirt up and felt roughly over her panties, pressing until she could feel Patrice's wetness through them. "I don't think you do," she said as she pushed them aside and slipped a finger slowly inside of Patrice.

Patrice growled again, angry with her body for betraying her and leaned forward as much as was possible in her position, away from Alex, "Don't..." Her hands gripped the inner edge of the bar, and despite her words she didn't fight too hard.

"Don't what?" Alex hissed. She pressed another finger inside of Patrice and began to pump them slowly. If the blonde really wanted her to stop, Alex knew she would use her safeword, and she would know that she went too far. She leaned down and nuzzled the back of Patrice's neck, nipping at it after pushing her hair away.

"Ohh...." Patrice felt Alex fill her and resisted the urge to relax into the touch, press back against her hand. Still, she had some resolve left from the shock of being yanked out of her day, and it was enough, "Don't....that...Alex..." She couldn't stay there much longer without giving in, and she twisted away as best she could, backing a pace away, skin flushed with anger and arousal.

Alex stalked forward, closing the distance between them. She grabbed Patrice's shoulders and kissed her, pulling away only to kiss down her jaw, down her neck to what little of her chest that was exposed. There was almost an air of desperation in her action as she tried to push Patrice back to one of the sofas.

She felt…could see, the want burning in Alex's movements and let herself be guided back until the backs of her legs met the couch. As the other blonde pressed her, Patrice's eyes flashed and she grabbed Alex, turning and shoving her down roughly instead, following a moment after, pinning her to the cushions. She held herself above Alex, one hand on each wrist, seeing how she would respond.

Gasping in surprise, Alex immediately flexed her arms, testing Patrice's grip. She narrowed her eyes and arched up, nipping the blonde's lip as she tried to kiss her, trying to reestablish control even from her position. Her thoughts were clouded with want, so much so that had almost forgotten the complaints she barged into Patrice's office with. She had not forgotten, however, that she had almost cost her firm a case with a rookie mistake and an uncalled for outburst in Boston.

Patrice leaned back, keeping Alex held against the couch firmly, "No. You certainly haven't earned that yet." Patrice knew Alex well enough to know what was currently required. She was feeling immediately calmer in this position, and from Alex's stare could tell she was now infinitely closer to knowing what was really behind the other woman's mood, but would need to play the scene out. "Don't think I'm going to just let your attitude go un-addressed." Her voice was returning to normal, "If you're going to act like a spoiled pet I can certainly treat you like one. Now, do you have something to say?"

"You're out of line," Alex managed. She was unsettled by how quickly Patrice had taken the upper hand away from and even more so by how her body's reaction was immediate want despite who was topping whom. She squirmed under the blonde but made no real attempt to change their positions.

Patrice almost laughed, "Well that's definitely not the right answer, I think you need some time to think of a better one." With that she shifted quickly off of Alex, catching a hand in her hair, and the other twisting her wrist and half marched, half dragged her back to their rooms, shoving her into the bedroom. "Get undressed." It was an order that Patrice meant to enforce. If Alex had chosen the location, it only seemed fair that Patrice could choose the entertainment. She had cleared her schedule, after all.

Stumbling over herself like a novice, Alex managed to both close her gaping mouth and begin to unbutton her pants without question. She had rarely seen Patrice so quickly and efficiently find such dominant footing, and it thrilled her the way Liz's coldest orders had once thrilled her. She managed to get undressed and fold her clothing quickly, sitting her glasses on top of the pile. But as she stepped in front of Patrice, she hesitated, remnants of her anger and frustration flaring as she refused to kneel.

Patrice raised an eyebrow at the semi-compliance and turned away from the other woman, going to a drawer. She returned with her own collar and a long leather tie. She paused in front of the other blonde, "Last chance Alex, do you have a better answer?"

Stony silence was the best Alex could do. She wouldn't answer to Patrice after the other blonde had knocked her own authority out from under her, at least, she wouldn't do it yet. Alex raised her chin, knowing she was tempting fate as she looked down her nose at the collar.

"Fine then." Patrice brushed Alex's hair out of the way and buckled the collar and tie, then shoved her back onto the bed, leaning over while the other woman tried to get her bearings, and snapped the tie to the headboard. She stood back up, straightening her clothes. "Maybe you'll have thought of something to explain yourself in awhile." With that she turned away and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her. The afternoon had grown late, and the club was due to open in about an hour. Patrice gauged her time, and decided she'd have enough to go and get Sabina after class and get them both ready for an evening out while Alex thought things over. She took Alex's purse as she walked out of the club, smirking as she left.

"Patrice!" Alex called angrily as the door shut. She pulled against the tether as she glared at the door. She knew she could unclasp it, take off the collar and simply get dressed and go home. But Alex was too well trained for that, and Patrice had switched their roles too easily for Alex to ignore it. She knelt there, waiting for the blonde to come back. When a maid came in to light the candles, Alex glared at her surprise and continued to stare until the woman hurried out. And finally, as her resolve weakened and her eyes dropped, she curled into a ball and fell asleep.

Thought the hours or so hadn't been too long, Patrice felt its passage, as she could imagine just what Alex was doing. And she knew, as she half waited for the blonde to show up at home, that the success of her impromptu plan wasn't guaranteed. But when Sabina appeared instead of Alex, she could not help but smile.

Sabina hadn't looked too surprised to hear Patrice tell her to get ready to go to the club for the evening, but Patrice could tell she was wondering where Alex was. The blonde didn't answer the unspoken question, not until they were settled at a set of couches in the main room. People were already milling around, mostly the regulars, and Patrice sipped the drink Sabina had given her, stroking the girl's hair and trying to steady herself for the rest of the night. "Sabina, go and get Alex for me." Noting the girl's confusion she motioned toward their rooms, Sabina could figure the rest out on her own.

So far, it had seemed like a normal night to Sabina, albeit one that Alex was oddly absent from, but at Patrice's order, she started to question that. The walk to their rooms wasn't particularly long, but it was long enough for Sabina to realize that something out of the ordinary was happening. When she didn't see Alex reading or working in the sitting room, both activities that she occasionally indulged in while at the club, she knew that something was up. She walked into the bedroom and came to a dead stop, utterly shocked to see Alex tied to the bed and completely asleep.

Though Alex could have slept for longer, the nature of how she found herself there and the pull of the collar on her neck from the way she had shifted in her sleep made it easier to be awakened by Sabina's muffled footsteps. She sat up and blinked until the afternoon came rushing back to her. Patrice obviously wasn't done with her yet.

Sabina walked over and untied the lead. It felt unfamiliar in her hands, though it was the situation and not the leather than was odd. She cleared her throat lightly, giving herself a moment to regain her poise. "Patrice wants to see you," she said as tugged slightly on the lead.

While she waited, Patrice scanned the room. She noted with slight amusement that Liz was seated nearer to the bar with Thomas, which meant Jonas must be back in town. She stood and went over to pay her respects, "Liz, hope you're having a pleasant evening." She had long gotten past the shock of seeing the judge in these circumstances, the bigger shock now being having to argue cases in her courtroom without blushing.

"I am," Liz answered, smiling as she nodded to the seat next to her. She had noticed Patrice's arrival with Sabina and noted Alex's absence, but she didn't ask. "As, I hope, are you." From where she was sitting, she had a clear view of who was coming and going from the room at two points, and that was when she saw Sabina lead a very naked and collared Alex in. Liz merely raised her eyebrows.

Patrice saw the older woman's expression change and turned to see Alex and Sabina approach. She lowered her voice, tone changing, "we'll see I think." She hoped her instincts were right with Alex, but that she was still there was a good sign at least.

Sabina had kept up a steady pressure with the leash. She was uncertain what she would do if Alex tried to fight her, so she simply hadn't given her the change, and kept the leash short. Patrice had moved from the couch, so Sabina headed toward the bar, smiling deferentially at Liz for a moment before she turned to Patrice. "Here she is."

"Thank you Sabina." Patrice pulled the girl in and kissed her indulgently before taking Alex from her.

With Liz there, Alex knew her behavior was subject to a different kind of scrutiny. She would have knelt, but Patrice was keeping the leash as short as Sabina had been. Instead she merely lowered her eyes, knowing that Liz would certainly see any display, no matter how small, of her temper from earlier. She heard Liz chuckle and comment, "Well, that's a change."

Patrice nodded, "It seemed she needed things simplified for the night." The time away had let Patrice think things over, and she knew something bigger must have happened. The night wasn't about her, it was about Alex, as it had been from the moment the other blonde had stormed into her office that afternoon. She resisted the urge to touch Alex. From her expression she could tell the blonde had fallen asleep, and her skin would be warm and soft, but Patrice held back, only just brushing her fingers through the other blonde's hair.

Sabina had stepped back after Patrice had finished kissing her, and now she just watched as Patrice ran her hands through Alex's hair. She wondered just what had happened earlier, but she knew that she wasn't in a position to ask questions. Instead, she just shifted slightly to lean against Thomas, more out of a desire for contact than anything erotic. She could tell that this wasn't the night to try to goad Patrice into anything.

"I see." Liz indulged herself by taking Alex's chin and looking down into her eyes for a moment. She knew that look; she had seen those circled before. But she withdrew her touch, allowing that Patrice certainly seemed to have the situation in hand.

The older blonde smirked and gazed at Sabina thoughtfully. "Of course, thank you." She stroked Sabina's cheek before pulling the girl close and fondling one of her breasts lightly.

"Mmm." Sabina made a slight, appreciative sound as she looked up at Liz, then respectfully to the floor, as she pressed her breasts forward. She rarely spent time at the club when not in Alex or Patrice's company, so it was a rare treat to get to focus on someone else, to be challenged by something different.

Patrice smiled and nodded deferentially at Liz and then moved across the room, Alex a step behind. She unclipped the lead and took a seat again where she could see Sabina still.

This time, Alex knelt before her without hesitation. She felt calmer for the sleep, but her need for the scene had not diminished. She watched through her lashes for a moment as Liz pulled Sabina into a kiss, then she gazed up at Patrice for half a moment before looking at Liz and the housegirl full on. Patrice had been looking too, but reached out and took Alex by the hair, shifting her gaze to the floor. Alex knew better. "I'd like a drink," she said simply, though hers was still half full.

She noted the warning and rose, taking Patrice's half full glass back to the bar. Liz was still in her spot there, and she had pulled Sabina into her lap in order to stroke her side. Alex tried not to become too jealous as she waited for Patrice's drink. She kept her eyes on the floor, sneaking looks up occasionally until the bartender gave her the new drink. She returned it to Patrice, kneeling as she offered it.

Patrice took the glass, trying not to smile at Alex's loss of focus. She tried to test the waters again before things continued. "So, do you have my answer now?"

Alex took a deep breath. "I'm not sure yet," she admitted. It was easier than admitting that she had done something wrong.

The blonde noted both her calmer demeanor, and that she was still holding back, She leaned down and grasped Alex's chin, forcing her gaze up to meet her own for a few long seconds, reading her. There was still defiance lingering, and Patrice released her, slapping her cheek before sitting back. It wasn't nearly as hard as she would hit Sabina for evading a question, but it would carry even more weight. "Yes you are, you just don't want to say it." Patrice took a sip and sat back, watching as something was being set up on the stage, "you let me know when you are ready."

The blow stung more mentally than it had physically, and Alex found herself gaping for what was not the first time that day. She tried to take calming breaths, but there was an edge to each of them, and her desire came back in sharp relief to her defiance. She squirmed lightly and ventured to speak out of turn, "And if I tell you?" It was something she wouldn't have done, even to Liz, normally, and there was a small thrill at purposefully being so bad mannered.

Patrice crossed her legs and tried not to take the obvious bait, "If you tell me you'll feel better after I punish you for your behavior so far."

Alex nearly smiled to herself at the way Patrice evaded her attempt. It was all right, she told herself, to let go; it was all right because she trusted Patrice, because Patrice was treating her more fairly than Alex had treated the blonde earlier in the day. "I made a mistake...and in trying to salvage the situation, I..." She sighed and swallowed, willing herself to force the words out, "the client almost went elsewhere," she said softly. And in truth, the entire situation had not been her fault but a compound of several small mistakes collapsed by one of her own.

Patrice focused on Alex, knowing that she had been in the same place before. She nodded silently, thinking of what she might have done had the places been reversed. In fact she knew exactly what she would have done, and what Donna had done about it when she had. As a reward for the honesty she reached out and slipped her fingers through the blonde's hair, "I think it's time to go back to the room." She waived Alex off, dismissing her, intending to follow soon after.

The blonde rose, feeling almost free now that she had said it. She could anticipate her punishment and simply move on to apologizing to Patrice. She kept her eyes lowered as she headed to the room to wait.

Patrice stood after Alex left and went back to where Sabina was behaving almost shamelessly as Liz indulged her. It was an amusing contrast to how the older blonde would treat either her or Alex. "I need to see to Alex if you don't mind, you can have Sabina help Brynn if you need to leave." The night was early still, but Patrice didn't want to assume that Liz wanted to look after Sabina all night.

"Not at all." Liz smiled thoughtfully. "If you'd like to take her back now, I suppose I can part with her." Though Liz wasn't sure if Patrice felt the need to handle Alex outside of the presence of their pet.

"She looks more than happy here I think, probably happier than she would be waiting in the sitting room while I finish dealing with Alex's blaming herself for life's issues."

Liz nodded knowingly. "Good luck." She had been there before, and she could picture Alex kneeling in the room, waiting for the release punishment would bring.

Sabina looked between them, making no move to get off of Liz's lap. She knew that the older woman was spoiling her, but that wasn't something that she personally had a problem with. Once it was clear that she wasn't going to be going anywhere, she put her head back down on Liz's shoulder, trailing her fingers over Liz's stomach.

Smiling bemusedly, Patrice slid her fingers through Sabina's hair before nodding at Liz and turning away. When she got to their rooms she had managed to clear her mind somewhat, and was pleased to see Alex waiting on her knees by the foot of the bed. She slipped off her shoes and sat on the bed, leaning back against the headboard, "Come here Alex."

Without hesitation, Alex rose and climbed onto the bed, where she knelt at Patrice's side. She sighed softly, almost contentedly as she waited for whatever Patrice had devised, knowing she was lucky to be indulged even when she didn't always realize the indulgence.

Patrice pulled her in for a long kiss, readying herself. Then she pulled the other woman away and tugged her down across her lap. "I think you know how this works, count please." With that she started to spank Alex, listening to make sure the other woman didn't miss any in her counting.

Alex closed her eyes and took a steadying breath to stave off her knee-jerk response of anger at the nature of the punishment. "One..." she began. And as she continued and the pain of the repeated contact mounted, her voice began to falter as tears began to sting her eyes.

The blonde listened, looked, and felt for Alex's eventual break. When she reached twenty-five, the other blonde's counting faltered. Patrice continued a few more times until she felt Alex shudder with a few tears. At that she stopped, hand smoothing over the other woman's red skin, "It's ok Alex...all of it." She wanted to let it go herself, and felt a growing need to pull Alex up and comfort her, but waited for a reply.

"Thank you," she replied breathlessly after a long moment. Alex let her tension melt away and she finally sagged completely against Patrice's lap. "Thank you, Patrice."

Patrice nearly sighed at the final shift in Alex's voice, it was so welcome, so anticipated. She pressed a finger between Alex's legs quickly and bit her lip as she felt how ready she was. A small smile spread over her features as a thought slipped into her mind and she shifted Alex so she could stand, leaving the other woman to recover. Patrice quietly removed her clothes and went to set them on the dresser, returning a moment later with just a leather harness around her hips. She had been waiting to take Alex properly since she had stormed in earlier in the day, but had made herself wait. She crawled up onto the bed, encouraging Alex to move so she was laying facing her. "You're welcome," she couldn't keep a smirk out of her voice.

Alex shuddered and did not try to contain the soft moan that rose in her throat when she saw Patrice return. She lay back, shifting on her sort skin as she opened her arms for the blonde, begging her to come closer, melting under the look in her eyes. "Please..."

Near begging herself, Patrice had no intention of denying the request. She settled her hips between Alex's legs, pressing them apart, and leaned up to kiss her deeply as she slowly slid the toy into her.

Alex moaned deeply into the kiss, arching into Patrice before wrapping her legs around her. She pressed her hands into Patrice's back, feeling the muscles there as sweat began to form on the blonde's skin. "God," she moaned. "I'm sorry...I'm so sorry..."

"It's okay...it's....you're ok.." Patrice pressed into Alex in a deep, slow rhythm. She had been waiting just as long as Alex had, and just the pressure of them together was enough to push her close quickly. She threw her head back as she felt Alex's fingers tighten around her, moaning as their pace increased.

She was looking for words, breath too jagged to produce them as her climax came in a sudden, overwhelming wave. Alex pulled Patrice into a kiss, pulling away when her body finally calmed.

At the change in Alex's breath, Patrice came as well, her whole body shuddering before she slid down, relaxing as she lay sprawled across the other blonde's skin. They lay silently for a long moment, sweat drying and last tremors subsiding. When she felt like she could move again, Patrice slid to Alex's side, brushing a strand of hair back from her face, "I really love you, you know." A small smile was spreading over her features as the whole of the day and night came back to her.

"Love you too," Alex replied, still a little breathless as she smiled for the first time that day. She rolled to her side and draped her arm across Patrice's middle. If she had to guess, she would say Liz was still enjoying Sabina's company and would be until the girl was called away by either she or Patrice sent for her. And she was happy to prolong the quiet moment alone, knowing, as she nuzzled Patrice's neck, that she needn't apologize again.

Chapter Text

Chuckling at the girl's obvious delight, Liz rolled one of her nipples between her fingertips. She kissed Sabina's neck thoughtfully as she saw Patrice finally disappear into the hallway leading to the private rooms. "Hmm, it seems we're going to have more time than I originally thought."

Sabina nuzzled Liz's neck, even as she squirmed further into Liz's lap. "I don't mind." Not that she really had a choice in the matter.

She pinched Sabina's nipple hard enough for it to be more uncomfortable than it was pleasurable. "Remember your training, Sabina." Liz kept the nipple between her fingers for a moment longer before releasing it and dropping her hand to Thomas's hair. "Go and get Brynn; I'd like to have something arranged."

Sabina hissed under Liz's touch, squirming in her lap as Thomas wordlessly got up and headed toward the alcove where Brynn often watch the lounge.

"You've been enjoying yourself tonight," Liz said, breath brushing against Sabina's ear. She began to rub the girl's thighs lightly, circling with her palms as she teased her way up them. "Perhaps I've indulged you too much."

Sabina whimpered and pressed into Liz, looking up at her adoringly. She was so focused that she was startled when Thomas and Brynn appeared at Liz's side. Thomas dropped back down to his knees. "Liz, what can I do for you?" Brynn asked solicitously.

Liz merely stroked the girl's hair. "I'd like an appropriate table to be brought into one of the small sitting rooms off of the lounge." And by appropriate, Liz knew Brynn would understand that it was clear she meant something long enough to hold Sabina and outfitted with hooks to which she could be cuffed. It she hoped it would be pretty enough to display the girl. "And if you would invite any lady who wishes to...get away for a little while, please..." Sabina looked at Liz curiously, not sure what she had in mind. An appropriate table could be anything, and assembling others could mean actual interaction or merely that Liz wanted an audience.

Brynn nodded. "Of course. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes." She would have someone else see to the table and she would circulate the invitations personally. "I'll send someone when everything is prepared."

"I hope you'll make your mistresses proud tonight." Liz smiled against Sabina's neck as she ran her fingers through the curls between her legs, touching her only lightly.

Sabina squeaked and nodded. Of course she would do everything that she could to make Alex and Patrice proud. She was sure that Liz would tell them exactly what transpired that night and she wanted it to be a good report.

"Good girl." Liz finished her drink, leaving off on touching Sabina further. When she saw Brynn approaching her again, she gently prodded the girl off of her lap and patted her ass. "I'll only need one more thing," Liz said once Brynn indicated that the scene was set. She leaned into the blonde and whispered something, making sure Sabina wouldn't be able to hear, before guiding Sabina by the back of her neck into the room.

Sabina let Liz guide her into the sitting room, her eyes going to the table, then to the rest of the women in the room. In fact, Thomas was the only person in the room who wasn't female. She still didn't know what Liz had in mind, but she trusted her completely.

"Ladies, I'm so glad you've come," Liz said, smiling cordially as if she were holding a tea. She pressed Sabina back onto the table, gently forcing the girl onto her back. It didn't take much effort to part Sabina's legs and cuff her ankles. Liz ran her thumb over one of them as she hooked its short tether to the table--the leather was soft and adorned with delicate gold scrollwork--leaving Sabina's feet flat and her knees slightly bent. Brynn certainly had an excellent sense of style. She then repeated each careful step with Sabina's wrists, cuffing them together above her head and attaching them with a longer tether to a hook on the side of the table. She smiled to Brynn who produced a soft, suede blindfold with the same detailing. Before covering Sabina's eyes, Liz kissed her softly.

Sabina blinked several times before the blindfold was tightened. She shifted on the table, trying to find a position that would be comfortable for a while, as she didn't know just how long Liz would leave her there.

"Sabina is," Liz began, turning to address the room as she ran her fingernail down Sabina's middle, "notably off limits to the male members of the club, but Patrice and Alex have been gracious enough to share her with me for the night. And I think before her time in New York comes to an end, she should certainly be shared with you." She smiled and stepped aside.

The brunette sucked in a breath when she heard Liz, already shifting on the table. She couldn't believe what Liz had just said. It was... It was impossible. There was no way...

There was a murmur among the guests, and a door opened when two house slaves entered with a tray of champaign and a tray of hors d'oeuvres respectively. The women began to mill about the table, talking among themselves. A tall brunette who was holding her glass by the base dabbed her finger in the glass and rounded Sabina's nipple with it before bending to delicately lick the liquid off of her skin as Sabina gasped and squirmed. "Mm...delightful."

Another watched for a few moments, licking her lips as Sabina squirmed. She perched against the side of the table before pressing two fingers into the girl without warning. "She certainly is ready," she said as she looked up to her companion, who had joined her.

Sabina whimpered, trying not to cry out. She was wet and she tried to close her legs about the hand inside of her, but it was futile. The wood underneath her was starting to warm, and instinctively tried to pull her arms down, making the tether tighten and the cuffs press into her wrists. She could feel the people around her, though not well enough to pinpoint where any one specific person was. She wished now that she had thought to pay more attention to just how many people were in the room. Now, she had absolutely no idea. And she doubt that the door was locked. Anyone could come and go.

And they did. Brynn watched from across the lounge, ready to personally direct Alex and Patrice to their pet when and if they decided to leave for the night. Each time the door opened, she could see snatches of Sabina squirming on the table as the crowd milled about. She could see hands on her flawless skin and once or twice she heard her moan.

Liz had found a particularly good vantage point, and she was enjoying simply watching as much as she had enjoyed touching Sabina earlier. The touches varied from light, to thoughtful caresses, to terse and appraising, and Sabina was responding beautifully. Though she had been at the club for over a year, there was no way she could tell who each and every set of hands belonged to. And Liz knew how thrilling, how overwhelming that could be. Liz had not told her not to come, but she knew the girl was well trained enough to attempt to obey the unspoken order.

Sabina was starting to tremble. There were so many hands that she was starting to anticipate touches that never came and being startled by the ones that did. As different as each was, they all felt amazing and it was getting harder and harder to hold off her orgasm. There was a set of very determined fingers on her clit, and a second set of hands pressing into her pussy and her ass. She was panting and sweating and she didn't know how much longer she could wait.

Alex came out of the bathroom after having washed her face and dressed. She smiled to Patrice and took her hand, her touch light and warm. "Let's get Sabina and head home," she said before placing a light kiss on Patrice's lips. The other blonde's smile was an affirmative, and they walked out together, making their way to the lounge. Alex looked around for Liz when she noticed Brynn approaching. "Liz has arranged a small scene in the blue parlor; she asked me to direct you there." She smiled knowingly at the two blondes and stepped aside.

Patrice nodded and cast a smile at Alex. She could only imagine all of what Liz might find entertaining left with Sabina for the evening and was already curious. When they stepped in to the room however, her breath caught. Sabina was so beautifully laid out, and twisting with pleasure under the many hands roaming over her body. She squeezed Alex's hand and went to the brunette, sliding a sure hand between her breasts before leaning down and kissing her.

Alex's own breath caught, and she nodded to Liz, silently telling her that she had absolutely outdone herself. She followed Patrice and placed a firm hand on Sabina's side, running it between her legs as the woman who had been touching Sabina there moved away. Sabina opened her mouth under Patrice's, knowing her immediately just by the way that she smelled. But if Alex was in the room and what state she might be in, Sabina couldn't tell. Before she could whimper at the fingers on her clit disappearing, they were replaced and she pushed down against them, and the hands still inside of her.

Patrice moved to whisper in Sabina's ear, deciding she had probably waited more than long enough, as had the audience for the spectacle, "Good girl, you may come for us." With that she pressed her fingers through the girl's hair encouragingly, watching as she breathed harder. Accordingly, Alex increased her pace as she smirked up at Patrice. It would only be a moment more.

Sabina breathed out in relief. The order couldn't have come a moment too soon. Sabina violently pressed down against the fingers touching her, shuddering around them. Her orgasm hit hard enough that she pulled the tethers taut and thrashed on the table.

The sight was enough to make Patrice hold her breath, and she kept stroking Sabina's hair, whispering encouragement as the girl quieted. Without an order being given, the room began to clear, the other patrons nodding to Alex and Patrice as they left quietly, going back to their nights. As the brunette's skin began to cool, Patrice ran her hands over her, and quietly took notice as Liz followed the others out, smiling to Alex and Patrice as she closed the doors behind her. The blonde smiled at Alex and kissed Sabina lightly again before reaching for the girl's bonds.

As Patrice worked, Alex removed the blindfold and smiled down at Sabina. "Good girl," she whispered as she bent to kiss her lightly, mirroring Patrice's actions. "I think you've earned the privilege of sleeping with us tonight," she said, looking up to Patrice for confirmation and smiling as she received it.

As soon as her hands were free, Sabina reached up, not entirely sure that she could even sit up on her own. Her muscles were shaking and she was shivering slightly as the sweat on her skin evaporated. She was happy about getting to sleep with Patrice and Alex, but she wasn't exactly sure how she was going to get to the car, let alone the bedroom.

Patrice noted Sabina's shaking and pulled her up, kissing her temple and speaking to Alex, "should we have them bring the car around?" Brynn could procure something for Sabina to wear home, and Patrice was looking forward to nothing more than slipping into bed with both of them.

"It's taken care of," Brynn said from the door. She didn't mean to pry, but Liz had sent her, and now she stepped forward holding out a simple black dress for Sabina. "I'm glad everyone seemed to have an enjoyable evening." She chuckled lightly, eyes twinkling as she nodded and headed out of the room.

Alex smiled and helped Sabina into the dress. "I think that answers that." She leaned in to kiss Patrice, longer, linger this time. "I think we could all use a little rest."

With Patrice's help, Sabina pulled the dress on, then pressed into her arms. She let Patrice help her stand, sure that she would fall over if Patrice chose to let her go. She was already starting to feel sore and she was more than ready to fall asleep.

Slowly Patrice let Alex lead them out of the room and through the darkened hallways to where their car would be waiting. Sabina was heavy in her arms, but the walk wasn't too long. She could hear their footsteps muffled by the carpet, and none of them spoke, the silence being comfortable, as they had grown with each other. The rough edges in their relationship, as that day, worn away over the time, and Patrice leaned over to kiss Alex as they slipped into the car, Sabina curling up on the backseat immediately for the ride home.

Chapter Text

Nathalie smoothed her skirt as she waited at the door to the building for Sabina. She was okay with not being asked to go up; Alex and Patrice, for all of their kindness, still made her a little nervous. And she was already nervous; she didn't want Sabina to think she couldn't be spontaneous and fun. So, she had been planning a spontaneous and fun start to their evening for most of the day. She looked up when the door opened and smiled as Sabina came out. "Hey."

"Hi." Sabina smiled back at Nathalie, wanting to lean in to kiss her but uncertain if they had progressed with far with their relationship. "So, what are we doing?" Nathalie had told her not to plan anything, so she hadn't, and she was looking forward to whatever it was that Nathalie wanted to do.

"Uhm...I thought we could just...take a walk." She mentally cringed, hoping that didn't sound lame. "There's a really good ice cream place not too far away..."

"That sounds cool." Sabina laced her fingers through Nathalie's. "Lead on." She pressed her shoulder against Nathalie's and waited for her to take the lead.

The brunette couldn't help but smile at the feel of Sabina's skin. She was glad that the other girl made that move because she might have agonized about it for the entirety of the walk rather than really enjoying herself. But now that it was done, she simply let herself relax a little, take in the city and the way the street lights, as they suddenly came on, reflected in Sabina's dark eyes. Nathalie felt like she could get a little lost there in a way she hadn't with Lara. "So...uhm, I had fun at dinner last time. It was nice."

"Yeah, I did too. But you really should have told me that you were a vegetarian sooner," Sabina teased. "I wouldn't have tried to take you to a steak house." They had ended up going to a Thai place around the corner once Nathalie had finally broken down and told her what was wrong.

Nathalie blushed. "I..." She was saved by the bell on the door to the ice cream shop ringing as someone stepped out. She caught the handle and held it open for Sabina. "Look, here we are." The place was an upscale ice cream parlor with nods towards whimsy while maintaining a sleek, modern look.

Sabina stepped in, a grin already on her lips. "This is great." She squeezed Nathalie's hand. "How did you find this place?" She knew that she had walked past it at least once without giving it a second glance.

"I...got caught in a huge downpour one day and ducked inside," she admitted. Nathalie led them to the counter, standing back so Sabina could look at the menu.

Sabina stood in awe of the selection trying to make up her mind. She placed her order, hoping that the flavors she picked would go together better than it sounded like they would. "Lucky downpour." She could picture what Nathalie would look like with her clothing soaking wet, and she thought it was a very lucky downpour indeed.

"In the end...yeah." Nathalie grinned and placed her order before leading Sabina to a table where they waited for it to come. She had to admit that normally she wouldn't be so thankful for something like that. It was a good reminder that surprises weren't always so hard to deal with.

Sabina slid her feet against Nathalie's ankles, just letting them rest there intertwined. "How's your history class going? Is the professor still mumbling every other word?"

Nathalie rolled her eyes even as a slight blush crept into her cheeks at the casual touch from Sabina. Her mind went back to the club, to how caring Sabina had been, to how nice it had felt to be with her that night. But that world and this were very separate for Nathalie. And after Lara...even though Therese had given her a full year's membership after the incident, she hadn't yet been back. "Yeah, it's a little ridiculous. But I kinda feel bad for him. Did you drop that weird sculpture class?"

"No." Sabina made a face. "I'm trying to stick it out. I want to use some her work in one of my projects for the film class I'm in and I think she'll say no if I cut and run." The waiter arrived with their orders, and Sabina grinned at the giant mound of ice cream, whipped cream, and hot fudge in front of her.

Nathalie laughed at the contrast between her bowl of tri colored rounds--green tea, lemon, and ginger drizzled with a sauce made of almonds--and Sabina's. "You're going to let me taste that, right?" Her eyes were bright.

"Of course." Sabina pushed her dish closer to Nathalie and stole some of her ice cream in the process. She was going to have a sugar high for hours but that was totally fine with her. It would sustain her through whatever Nathalie had planned.

The brunette took a small bite and looked thoughtful as it melted in her mouth. "Yeah that's...uhm...too much chocolate, I think." She took her own back and took a large bite of the lemon ice cream to counterbalance it.

Sabina chuckled. "It's a perfect amount of chocolate." That didn't stop her from stealing another bite of Nathalie's ice cream and putting some of her whipped cream on top of it.

"You're ruining it," Nathalie said primly, eyes sparking as she tried to contain a smile. She wasn't thinking about the rest of the evening, about what the options where. And she hadn't even realized until that moment that she wasn't. Being with Sabina was...it was refreshing.

"No. I'm making it better." She chuckled. She knew that her lips were covered in chocolate when she leaned forward and quickly pressed them against Nathalie's

She gasped, meeting Sabina's lips and tasting the chocolate, quickly licking it off of her own as she pulled away. "Sabina..." she gasped, unable to contain a shy grin.

Sabina grinned back and licked her lips. "Yeah?"

"Are you always so..." Nathalie shrugged. She didn't know what the word was, and it didn't really matter. Maybe they were getting a few stares, but she really just wanted to kiss Sabina again. "Hey, we should go to a movie or something..." That had not been the plan, but it would be dark...and Nathalie didn't like movies all that much, so she wouldn't need to pay attention at all.

"Yeah, absolutely." Sabina never turned down an invitation to a movie. "There's a Swedish film series going on around the block, or there's a theater across town that's doing B horror movies, if you wanna see something less... esoteric." Those were just the first two things that popped into her mind, though it would be easy to find out what was playing at the mainstream theaters too.

"Yeah, there's a cineplex down the street. Let's just...yeah, there's that...uhm..." Nathalie had no idea what was playing. And while Swedish film sounded cool, especially with someone like Sabina, that wasn't exactly what she had in mind. "Uh, that thing with...vampires and yeah, whatever, it'll be fun." She shoved the last few bites of ice cream into her mouth and grabbed Sabina's hand, almost tripping as she pulled her up.

Sabina stumbled after Nathalie, not quite sure what had gotten into her. Once they got to the theater, she looked up at the board, surprised to see that there were actually some decent movies playing. And Nathalie wanted to see vampires? "Vampires? Really? You know, I've heard some good things about that war movie..."

"Everyone loves vampires..." Right? Nathalie shrugged and bought the tickets before Sabina could protest. They had missed the previews, so the theater was already dark, and Nathalie made sure to find seats in the back, slipping into one without bothering to pull down the armrest.

"I guess..." Sabina frowned as she sat next to Nathalie, not sure why she was in such a hurry or had picked such bad seats.

"It'll be fun," Nathalie whispered as she moved close to Sabina and the credits started.

Sabina looked down at Nathalie, then up at the credits. They weren't impressive. "If you say so."

"You know," she whispered softly, "it's really rude to talk in movies..." Nathalie tried not to think; she didn't want to think. Instead, she took a deep breath, too deep maybe because she felt a little lightheaded as she leaned in and kissed Sabina.

Though Sabina was surprised to find Nathalie kissing her, she quickly adapted. She wrapped a hand around the back of Nathalie's neck, keeping her close. "Right," she whispered. "Rude."

"Yeah..." Nathalie kissed her again, shifting closer. She hadn't really gotten beyond this point in her mind. But she told herself that it wasn't really different than being at the club...just more secret. She put her hand on Sabina's thigh, glad that the other girl had worn a skirt.

Sabina turned more fully toward Nathalie, finally understanding just why she had wanted to come to a movie. She pressed her thigh into Nathalie's hand, used to doing all sorts of things in all sorts of places at Patrice and Alex's behest. She wrapped an arm around Nathalie, feeling her breasts press against her own and wanting to get closer.

Nathalie sighed into the touch and squirmed, enjoying how close they had gotten so quickly. She slumped down a bit, pulling Sabina with her and pressed her hand up the brunette's skirt, tentatively running her fingers over her panties.

"Oh." Sabina sighed as Nathalie touched her. She slid her hand under Nathalie's shirt, skimming it over her ribs to her breasts. She was officially ignoring the movie.

"Shh," Nathalie whispered, pressing Sabina's panties aside. She had made out in movie theaters, but she had never been so deeply into it that her inner monologue just shut off. When she felt how wet Sabina was she shuddered, pressing into the other girl's touch as she pushed a finger inside of her. Sabina nodded, Nathalie's finger inside her completely distracting. In return, she pushed Nathalie's bra down and started rolling her nipple between her fingers.

Whatever was happening on the screen, which Nathalie could only deduce involved an overly pale guy with really bad hair, was of no consequence next to the way Sabina squirmed. She had to bite back a moan at the touch and contented herself to press another finger into Sabina in silence. Sabina spread her legs as best she could to accommodate Nathalie, though the theater seats didn't make it easy. This wasn't exactly how she pictured their first time, but she wouldn't change a thing. She was already getting close, biting her lip to make sure that she stayed silent.

Nathalie did her best to press Sabina's clit with her thumb, working against the constraints of their surroundings and Sabina's clothing. She drew the brunette into a kiss, still tasting chocolate on her lips. Sabina's hips bucked up, and she almost toppled them out of the chairs. She scrambled and managed to stop their fall. It distracted her from Nathalie's touch for a second, but she quickly focused again. It only took another moment for her to reach her orgasm, and she grabbed at Nathalie in desperation. And Nathalie held her close, finding that she was wet and ready just from that. She tried to calm her breathing, to keep quiet. And as she held Sabina, she found herself grinning.

Sabina quickly caught her breath, her arms wrapped around Nathalie. When she saw the other woman grinning, she couldn't help but lean up and kiss her. "Come home with me." She wanted to touch Nathalie and she didn't want to do it in a movie theater.

"What?" Nathalie whispered, eyes going wide. "I don't know... I mean, wouldn't that be weird?"

Sabina sat up and grabbed Nathalie's hand, pulling her out of the theater. "If I promise that it won't be weird, will you say yes?" She wrapped her arms around Nathalie and pressed against her. She knew that the other woman had to be wet and aching and she was perfectly willing to use that to get her way.

"Yes," Nathalie blurted. "I mean...okay...if you're sure." It was going to be weird; she knew it. But she couldn't say no to Sabina. Not then.

"Thank you." Sabina kissed her quickly, then pulled her out of the cineplex and toward the penthouse. She didn't give Nathalie a chance to think before she pushed her into the elevator. As soon as the doors closed, she pounced on Nathalie, kissing her, pressing her back against the elevator wall.

Nathalie squealed, but that quickly turned into a moan as she pressed into Sabina. She grunted in frustration when the bell indicated that they had reached the floor and the doors parted.

Sabina pulled away from Nathalie long enough to get her keys and get them inside. She wasn't sure if Patrice and Alex were even home, and if they weren't then this would be even easier. She looked around for the telltale signs, shoes, briefcases, and keys.

Nathalie was looking around too, and she was surprised at the two huge dogs that bounded down the hall and immediately began to sniff her hands and her legs. "Oh...uhm...hi...hi there, dogs," she said, patting them both awkwardly.

"That's Porcelain and that's Persia," Sabina pointed them out. "Alex and Patrice aren't here, but I should probably make sure they've been fed." She grabbed their collars and pulled them off of Nathalie. "My room is just down the hall, unless you want to come with me." She was just going to the kitchen, but she didn't know if Nathalie would be comfortable being left alone.

"I'm just...yeah..." She pointed towards the room and headed that way. It figured that Alex and Patrice would have gigantic, scary dogs to match their incredibly imposing personalities. Nathalie went into Sabina's room and sat on the bed, trying to center herself, mind going back to what had happened at the movie theater.

Sabina checked the dogs' bowls, and seeing that they had been fed, pulled out a couple of treats for them. A couple of pets later and she walked back to her bedroom and Nathalie. She opened the door, then closed it again once she was on the other side. She grinned at Nathalie, thinking that she looked adorable sitting in the middle of her bed.

Nathalie smiled up at her and was relieved when Sabina closed the door. She relaxed visibly. "So..." She shifted.

Sabina smiled and stepped forward, crawling onto the bed to kiss Nathalie. "So." She pulled her own shirt off then reached for Nathalie's.

"Oh, God..." Nathalie shivered and pulled her own shirt and bra off before pulling Sabina closer, running her hands down her back. She didn't know that she could wait much longer.

Sabina pressed Nathalie down onto the bed and started pulling off her pants. She didn't want to make Nathalie wait. She didn't want to wait herself, and as soon as she had Nathalie naked, she pushed her fingers into her, and leaned down to start licking her.

If Nathalie was trying to say something, it was coming out completely incoherently. She devolved into simply squirming as she moaned, enjoying every moment and quickly coming to her climax. Sabina pushed her through it, holding her close afterwards. She kissed Nathalie's neck as she wrapped herself around her.

"Mm...uhm..." Nathalie tried to form full thoughts. She smiled softly. "I didn't really want to see a vampire movie..."

"Yeah, I figured that out when you pushed your fingers inside of me." She chuckled.

Nathalie blushed. "Uhm...yeah."

Sabina nuzzled against Nathalie's neck, kissing it lightly. "See, didn't I tell you that this wouldn't be awkward?"

*****

Alex unlocked the door and tossed her keys onto the table, taking off her jacket and taking Patrice's to hang it up just as she normally did when they walked in together. It was so much of a routine that she didn't even think about her actions. "Oh, looks like Sabina is home," she said, noting the girl's bag sitting on the table and stopping Alex's keys from sliding off.

Patrice nodded and paused to kiss Alex before heading into the kitchen. It was nice to get home together at a decent hour for once. "What do you want to do about dinner? We could order in?"

"That sounds perfect...especially since I left your shopping list in my office this morning when I was supposed to give it to Sabina." She smiled a tad bit sheepishly and kissed Patrice quickly again. "I'll go get her." Alex headed down the hall, petting the dogs as they came to greet her. "Sabina," she said as she knocked, "we're ordering in...any requests?"

Sabina's eyes went wide at the knock, though not as wide as Nathalie's. "Um... nothing special," she called back, hoping that Alex would simply accept that answer and go away, letting her deal with Nathalie's panicked look.

"Are you sure? I don't want any complaints like the last time Patrice ordered from the vegan place," she said putting her hand on the doorknob.

Sabina scrambled up, not bothering to put a shirt back on as she opened the door a crack. "Just, uh, not vegan. Other than that, I'm good." She smiled at Alex and really hoped that she wouldn't ask.

The blonde raised her eyebrows as she looked past Sabina, seeing a flash of movement and what she thought was naked skin. She smirked. "Should I order enough for Nathalie too?"

"Um..." Sabina wasn't sure how to answer Alex and she looked back at Nathalie. "Would you, um, like to stay for dinner?" She didn't think that Nathalie would say yes, but a part of her was hoping.

"I should...uhm..." Nathalie's cheeks were flaming, and she nearly fell on her face as she tried to get into her jeans. "I should head home...I have a project due in a couple of days. But...thank you."

Alex chuckled and backed away, closing the door. Once back in the kitchen, she wrapped her arms around Patrice from behind and smiled against her neck. "I think we interrupted something."

Patrice raised an eyebrow, leaning back into Alex, "Oh?" From the scrambling noises coming from Sabina's room, she was starting to get the picture. She felt a slight hint of possessiveness, but pushed it away, Sabina deserved to enjoy herself, and she trusted the young woman to tell them if anything needed to change in their arrangement.

"Mmhm." She kissed Patrice's neck softly. "Nathalie won't be staying for dinner, but...I think we'll only need two chairs tonight." As long as they were all home, Alex saw no harm in having a nice evening with their pet. And she didn't think Sabina would begrudge them that if she wasn't too upset about Nathalie running off.

Sabina leaned against the closed door and ran her hands through her hair. "I'm really sorry about that."

"It's okay...uhm...really..." Nathalie would hyperventilate about it in the elevator and get over it later. She smiled and walked towards Sabina, pulling her in for a kiss, calming herself. "Wanna just...try again this weekend?"

Sabina leaned into Nathalie, wrapping her arms around her. "Yeah. I'd like that." She kissed her again. "Let me just walk you out."

"Sure..." Nathalie took her hand and smiled a she mentally prepared herself to see Alex and Patrice.

Sabina opened the door and pulled Nathalie out after her. She hoped that they would get to the front door without incident, but she wasn't counting on it.

Patrice knew she should behave, but couldn't help looking around the corner as the two girls made their exit. She smiled warmly, though her eyes flashed with humor, "Nice to see you again Nathalie, have a nice night."

Nathalie nearly jumped, but she returned Patrice's smile, trying to focus on the memory of how kind Patrice had been to her. "Thank you...uhm, you too."

Sabina smiled at Patrice, then opened the door for Nathalie. "I'll see you this weekend." She leaned in for a quick kiss, knowing that Patrice was probably still watching them.

Chapter Text

"It's just a week, don't look at me like that." Patrice put the stack of folded clothes in her suitcase, trying not to melt under Alex's almost pitiful stare. "It's necessary, they want me there to oversee the mediation. And it's Seattle, not Kathmandu, I'll call." She considered if she needed a raincoat just in case, "Besides, don't think I don't know how you indulge Sabina when I'm gone, I'm sure you'll survive. There.." She closed the case, pushing down on the top to make sure it would zip.

Alex sighed and leaned on the top of the suitcase thoughtfully. "It's the other side of the country." And she was being completely irrational, she knew. But this wasn't a weekend in Chicago, and Alex wasn't entirely sure it wouldn't end up stretching past a week, at worst. "And Persia is intolerable when you're gone," she finished, lamely.

Patrice raised an eyebrow, "Really Alex? Persia? I'll just take that as an admission that you'll miss me." She stepped over and took the other blond in her arms, kissing her softly, "I'll miss you too."

Meeting the kiss, Alex caught Patrice in her arms. "They could send someone else," she said softly. It wasn't like her to cling, but with the weighty matters that they had been discussing lately, she wasn't ready for a week of sleeping relatively alone.

Patrice smiled at the woman in her arms, knowing she wasn't looking forward to an empty hotel room either, "Well, it is my case, you know how it is. Why don't you take Sabina out while I'm gone? I think she has time now before finals start." Patrice knew it wasn't great timing to be out of town, but she had little choice in the matter.

Alex kissed her neck, pulling her closer. "Mm, maybe...if I can pull her away from Nathalie." She wasn't resentful of that. In fact, she was glad Sabina was enjoying herself with someone her own age. She nuzzled Patrice's neck and groaned, tightening her hold yet again.

Patrice smiled lightly, starting to think she was going to have an Alex-shaped carry- on if this continued. "I'm sure you can manage to be persuasive...or...insistent enough for that." She made a mental calculation in her head, trying to remember what time she needed to be at the airport, "I hate to say it but I think I need to get going soon." She ran her fingers through Alex' hair and tried not to let herself get too emotional, it really only was for a week. Well, so far at least, these things had a way of stretching with all the parties involved.

"Let me drive you." Alex caught Patrice's hand and kissed her fingers lightly, pressing them for a moment before letting them go. She slid off of the bed and pulled on a pair of flats, indicating that she wasn't going to take 'no' for an answer.

"Thanks," Patrice checked her briefcase one more time, making sure she had the file and boarding pass. She'd be lying if she said she wasn't glad to have the simple luxury of having Alex take her rather than having to hail a cab. The blond glanced around the apartment one last time and followed Alex to the door, pausing to lean in and kiss her on the shoulder as the other woman paused to unlock it. "I really will miss you you know."

Alex smiled and turned to her. "I'd miss me too." Her smile turned into a slight smirk, and she told herself that there was no sense in getting weepy. It was business, and they were two adults who could handle a week apart. And she thought if she could manage to focus on what their reunion after Patrice had gotten stuck in Chicago had been like, the week might pass more quickly. After opening the door, Alex took Patrice's briefcase and gave her a light kiss. "I'll miss you too, and so will Sabina and the girls. But with a little takeout and regular phone calls, I guess we'll manage." She resisted the urge to sigh, smiling instead.

Chapter Text

Alex tapped her phone against her chin as she looked out of the bedroom window at the sunset. It was a nice night for a walk, but Sabina had already taken the dogs, and she knew it was the type of night where she would want to take Patrice out for a drink on a rare secluded patio. She looked at the screen of her phone, mentally counting backwards for the time difference and wondering if she would actually catch Patrice out of work. And after waiting a few minutes in order to watch the sky grow darker, she called. As the phone began to ring, she leaned back, glancing over her shoulder through the open door. Sabina's door was closed, and she could hear strains of music coming out of her room.

Patrice had just managed to check in to her hotel when the phone rang, she still couldn't believe their local counsel had wanted to meet with her right out of the airport. The flight had been uneventful, though she had had more appetizing chicken served to her in cardboard before. She quickly shrugged her coat off while she answered, "Hey Alex, I made it. How was your day?"

At the sound of Patrice's voice she smiled, lingering for only a moment longer at the window. "Uneventful, for the most part. Did I catch you at an okay time?" she asked, noting that the remnants of business and travel colored Patrice's voice in a way she couldn't quite describe.

"Oh...yes...it's fine." Patrice took a breath and slumped back onto the bed, untucking her shirt and kicking off her shoes one at a time, "The city is beautiful though, the mountains are huge. Wish you were here." It was strange now how for the first time when she found herself enjoying something new she immediately wanted to share it.

Alex played with a pull she noticed in the comforter. "Sounds...outdoorsy." She chuckled lightly, thinking about what a kick Patrice had gotten taking her for a "walk" on their first weekend trip together. She was sure seeing Seattle with her would be just as good an experience. "Maybe I'll come with you sometime when you're not working." She sighed and looked to the window, to the city lights. "It was a gorgeous evening...perfect for that little wine bar..." She could never remember the name, but that always made it better. And in that statement, it went without saying that Alex already missed her.

Patrice smiled to herself, knowing that Alex would have that wistful expression on her face she only allowed in private, "Sounds perfect, we should go when I get back." Thinking of Alex and a quiet night out she mindlessly unbuttoned the top button on her shirt, "Are you going to bed soon? It's later there."

"Mm, probably. I think Sabina's working on a project." It was almost as if Alex could hear a shift in Patrice's voice; though, she might have imagined it, she did hear the rustling of the blonde's clothes. Without really thinking about it, she got up and closed the door. "But I could stay up a little longer..." She licked her lips, thoughtfully as she climbed back into bed.

Patrice bit her lip, "Don't stay up on my account. Though...if I was there I might be tempted to keep you occupied for awhile." She was smiling as she finished the statement, fingers still working over the buttons.

"I...don't think I'd be opposed to that at all." Alex was already in thin pajama bottoms and a tank top, and she found herself sliding under the covers, squirming lightly at what she thought might be a promise. She rubbed her collarbones thoughtfully. "I seem to remember nights with you being worth a little lost sleep."

"I'm flattered." She could hear the rustle of the blankets and knew what Alex would look like there, feel like, with her skin starting to redden lightly. Her fingers itched to touch her like she normally would, but Patrice sighed and lowered her voice instead. "I wish I was there. I want to be able to kiss you right now...right at that place under your ear." She knew Alex would know exactly what she meant, the touch always made the other blond squirm, and that was exactly why Patrice couldn't resist doing it.

Alex felt goosebumps rise on her neck and chest and run down her arms, just as they would at the touch of Patrice's lips to that delicate spot. She touched it lightly, shivering at the sensitivity. "You know..." Alex's voice dropped to match, and she closed her eyes, easily picturing Patrice's lips, her hands. "I'd have to find a way to get my hands under your shirt...for teasing." She loved the feel of Patrice's soft, warm skin, of the curve of her hip and the long lines up her sides to her breasts.

"I'm sure you'd manage, I might even let you take this shirt off, I've been wearing it all day." She finished with the buttons and shrugged it off, thinking of how Alex's eyes would be lit with anticipation. She licked her lips thinking about the other blond, "but then I'd have to return the favor."

Alex sighed contentedly and sank back into the pillows , running her hand up her ribs and underneath the curve of her breast. She could remember Patrice's scent, could call the mind all of the things it made her think of. "I don't think you'd mind...especially since I'm already ready for bed, and you can see through this one...so easily." Her voice clearly held a smile.

"Mmmnn.." Patrice couldn't help a small groan, feeling her nipples harden almost immediately. "Oh...I like your choice...as usual." She was smiling now, "would I approve of the rest of your choices then?"

"I think I just might be wearing your favorite pair of panties," Alex said teasingly. They were black lace with a delicate ballet pink bow in the front--elegant and understated. And she had put them on in hopes of keeping Patrice from the airport a little longer, though they hadn't got that far. "I bet your nipples are...mmm..." Alex could picture Patrice lying there without her shirt on.

That almost brought Patrice to the point of whimpering at the distance between their cities. "Oh....you are, are you?" She leaned up and took off her bra, tossing it across the comforter. "Mnnnn...they might be. And likewise I'm sure. If I was there I just might be tempted to pull that shirt up and make sure."

"Why don't I just take care of that for you?" Alex asked playfully. She tried to balance the phone between her shoulder and her chin as she took her shirt off. It ended up falling, but she picked it up quickly. "I'm willing to bet we're even now." Alex ran her thumb over one of her nipples and her breath caught, she knew, audibly. "And if you were here...I'd have to kiss down your neck...mmm, to that spot that just above your collar, that bruises so easily."

"God..." She arched just slightly as though into Alex's mouth. Patrice was getting uncomfortably wet and was temped to just move on quickly, but she was thoroughly enjoying hearing Alex obviously feeling the same. "However, you know I don't play even too well." She flexed her fingers slightly across her stomach, "I'd want to take off the pants you've got on, they're highly unnecessary for what I'd do next."

"Indulge me," Alex whispered, voice dark as she fondled one" nipple with more intent, "and tell me what you'd do next." She smiled lightly as she pressed her legs together. "Or maybe I should let you know how I'd already have your skirt pushed up around your waist by now."

Patrice wasted no time in shifting, pulling on the fabric and imagining Alex's fingers brushing over her legs, along her thigh-highs and then skin. She took an almost shaking breath, "I'd take off those pants and just look at you, maybe take the time to pull off those panties slowly." She was breathing harder, and was sure Alex could hear it.

"Patrice," Alex whined, indulging herself in admitting that she missed the blonde and wanted her there. She squirmed out of her pants, and ran her fingers over the panties, feeling her own wetness through them, but she didn't take them off just yet. "I don't know how long I could let you look...you do get so smug," she said, breath quickly matching Patrice's.

She heard the shift in Alex's voice and couldn't resist dropping her fingers to roll one of her nipples between them. "Yes? And just what would you do about it." God...she wasn't sure she could stand much more waiting.

"If you tell me about how you're touching yourself," Alex said softly, "I might just tell you." She smirked, knowing Patrice would know exactly the expression that was on her face.

"God...Alex...." She was beyond thinking too hard, and found herself moving her hand lower, between her legs. "Mmmnn...I'm so...wet....tell me please."

Alex could hear the movement, along with her jagged breath echoing into the phone. She moved her own hand down, rubbing herself over the lace. "Well...I'd have to flip you over, so I was on top of you...with my thigh between your legs," she said, trying desperately to keep her voice even and authoritative.

If she wasn't already coming close she might have noticed Alex struggling, but in her current state she was only focused on what Alex would look like above her. "Oh...and I'd pull you down and kiss you...until I couldn't last any longer." She could imagine Alex's warm body brushing over hers, and she closed her eyes.

"How wet are you, Patrice?" Alex asked breathlessly. She could imagine, could feel Patrice's warmth surrounding her fingers, and she slipped her hand underneath her panties, moaning slightly as she pictured the blonde sprawled underneath her.

"Very..." She could hear Alex shift, and the thought of her touching herself on the other end of the line was making her quickly lose control, she already knew Alex was as well, "I want to hear you come for me."

"God...whatever you want," Alex said, her voice strained with desire. She began to touch herself with more intent, knowing she couldn't prolong it much longer is she wanted to. "Mm...want you," she murmured, close.

Patrice let herself quicken, breathing and almost whimpering into the phone as she thought of Alex's expression, "You...please Alex..." She wasn't sure what she was begging for, for her own release or to hear Alex shudder through hers.

"So, wet," Alex breathed. Her own skin and the thought, the memory of Patrice's scent, of her taste pushed Alex into a quick, shuddering release, and she moaned softly into the phone, hoping Patrice would know the sound.

She did and almost immediately echoed it, heels dragging on the hotel comforter. She panted as she calmed, "Alex...." She was still breathless as she started to smile at the moment, "God...Alex I miss you." She was already counting the days until her return flight.

"Miss you too," Alex replied, voice thick. She turned on her side, phone underneath her ear. "Mm, sure you can't just catch a flight back tonight?" She was smiling softly, knowing that couldn't happen. And it was all right. She could handle the days with thinking about just how she would welcome Patrice back.

"Not sure that's possible, but I wish I could." Patrice brushed a strand of hair back out of her face, "You should get some sleep…it's late." She was smiling lazily, "Call me in the morning?"

Alex chuckled. "I'm not sure you want me calling around three of four. Why don't you text me when you wake up?" She sighed and pulled the comforter around her shoulders.

"Oh...I suppose…of course" Patrice could already feel her eyes growing heavy, and she still wished she was in bed next to Alex. "Mmm....Goodnight Alex."

Alex sighed and rolled onto her back, closing her eyes. "Sleep well, Patrice," she whispered, hearing the blonde's breath slacken in sleep. She hung up and let her phone slip to the side as she ran her hand over the empty spot beside her.

Chapter Text

Sabina rubbed her eyes and closed her laptop, finally done editing her short film, or at least done for the night. It was later than she wanted it to be, and she hoped that she wasn't waking Nathalie up as she dialed her number and waited for her to pick up.

"Hello." Nathalie answered immediately. Not only was she up, but she had also just had an energy shot in order to stay up and make sure the details of her presentation were absolutely perfect. She settled the phone between her shoulder and cheek as she typed.

"Hey." Sabina was juggling the phone and pulling her clothing off, getting ready for bed. "I'm sorry I'm calling so late."

"It's okay. I'm up for a while." Nathalie was tempted to continue typing, but she actually took a breath and pictured Sabina on the other end of the line. She smiled to herself as she paused and leaned back in her chair. "What's up?"

"I just got to a good place to stop with the film, and I wanted to talk to you before I went to sleep." Now that she was naked, she crawled between the sheets. She hadn't slept naked before Alex and Patrice, but by now, it was simply second nature. She never knew when one of them might wake up early and be interested, at least, she never gave up hope of such a thing. "I would have called sooner but I got, um... distracted."

"Distracted?" Nathalie raised her eyebrows at the change in Sabina's tone. She moved to her bed and crossed her legs as she leaned against the headboard.

"Very." In fact, she was still slightly wet, just from listening. "Patrice had to go to Seattle earlier and I guess she got there because she and Alex were having phone sex."

Nathalie was silent for a moment as she rolled the information around in her mind. "Well that's...perfectly normal, I guess." And it was. Well, she didn't have any problem with it. Though, she had a hard time putting Alex and Patrice there.

"Mmm. Normal…and incredibly sexy to listen to. It cost me half an hour."

"You listened to the whole thing?" Nathalie asked in disbelief. "Does Alex know?"

"Of course Alex doesn't know." Sabina sounded scandalized. "Do you know how much trouble I'd be in if she found out?" Not that she wouldn't enjoy being in trouble, but she thought that perhaps it was something that might embarrass her, and Sabina thought it best to pick her moments.

"Yeah, but you like being in trouble." There was a smirk evident in Nathalie's voice. She shifted, crossing her legs. "So...uhm...is this supposed to be a prelude to phone sex with me?"

"Well, it wasn't, but it can be." There was a smile in Sabina's voice and she settled into the bed. "If you want..."

"Uuuuh..." Nathalie bit her lip and squirmed a little bit. It was so tempting. Even more tempting was to just convince Sabina to slip out and just come over. But she had the presentation the next day, and it was the bulk of her grade for the class. "Or we could just get together tomorrow night...here..."

"Mmm. I was thinking of doing some shopping tomorrow. Come with me?" Sabina wasn't too disappointed that Nathalie was putting her off. She knew about the presentation and she knew how seriously Nathalie took her school work. "I'm sure we could find something to do afterwards..."

"Only if you have lunch with me before we go." Nathalie was grinning as she slid off of the bed and went back to her desk.

"Deal." Sabina rolled onto her side and turned her light off. "I should let you get back to work."

"I will. Try not to stay up all night." She knew that there was every chance that Nathalie had stopped paying attention to her.

"Yep..." Nathalie made herself stop for another moment. "Night, Sabina."

"Buona notte." Sabina hung up the phone and tossed it onto her night stand. She had thought to relieve her frustration, but with the promise of a night with Nathalie, she decided to wait.

Chapter Text

The comment had been a complete surprise to Patrice during an otherwise normal lunch during the noon court recess. At first she had just laughed at James, until she realized that the man was actually offering her a job, and a very good one at that. So good in fact that she hadn't turned it down, even though it was in their Seattle office. Her mind was jumping from one scenario to the next, and when she finally reached her hotel to change before going out for drinks with James and some of the other partners to talk more she picked up her phone to call Alex and tell her, nearly bouncing on her toes as she held the phone to her ear and paced in front of the large window.

"Hey," Alex answered, obviously glad to hear Patrice's voice. She had been expecting to get a call a little later, but she would have been lying if she had denied that her phone was in her back pocket when she was feeding the dogs. She paused in the doorway to the laundry room, watching them eat. "I didn't expect to hear from you for another hour or so...not that I'm complaining." Alex's smile was clear in her voice.

She was glad when Alex picked up, not wanting to just leave a message, "Well I'm just on my way out to get drinks with some of the other attorneys, but I couldn't risk not getting to talk to you tonight. I have exciting news." She was still pacing, smiling broadly.

Alex cocked her head; Patrice's excitement was almost palpable even through the phone. She turned on her heel and dropped the dogs' food scoop into the tall plastic food bin before heading into the living room. "Drinks? Must have been a good day." Alex sat, still smiling as she curled one of her legs underneath her. She was fully prepared for Patrice to tell her she was booked on the first flight back to New York the next morning.

"It was. I think my cross of the company president may have convinced them to settle so we might be done early with the trial." Patrice went to the small hotel closet as she talked and pulled out a simple black dress she was now glad she'd packed, "But that's not my news. Alex...I still can't quite believe it, but they offered me a job. It's really good, really good...they offered to bring me in as a partner and the manager of the corporate litigation section." She ran her fingers excitedly through her hair, "I mean...it's here...in Seattle, but I have to consider it, and...I'm just so surprised, it came out of nowhere." The blond knew she hadn't really thought it through, but it was just such an enticing offer that the logical side of her mind hadn't caught up.

"I..." Alex had been formulating her response, had been deciding how she was going to parcel out her excitement at having Patrice back sooner than expected. It took a moment for each of the words to come together into meaning, and she was glad Patrice wasn't there to see her smile drop unceremoniously. "Wow..."

Patrice was still considering if she had time to attempt a real hairdo and didn't catch the minute shift in Alex's tone, excitement making her take the words at face value, "I know! It's just out of nowhere, but you don't get these offers everyday, if ever really." She glanced at the clock on the bedside table, "But I'll tell you more about it later once I know more, I'm going to be late, I'll call when I get in. Miss you so much, kiss Sabina for me?"

"Absolutely...of course," she replied distractedly. Alex was squeezing the bridge of her nose, still trying to process. But she forced herself to smile; it was amazing, and she could hardly begrudge Patrice the excitement. But that Patrice was moving from offer to drinks with actual consideration on her mind made Alex's heart sink somewhat. She tried to to push it away, however, hoping that once she heard more, everything would even out. "Have a good time, okay? And...call me if you remember when you get in."

"I will, promise. Have a good night." Patrice couldn't stop smiling as she started changing hurriedly. The only thing that would have made her night better was if she got to go home to Alex rather than an empty hotel room.

Chapter Text

Alex licked her lips as she walked through the semi dark hallway heading towards the lounge. A server hurried past her, surprised for a moment to see a member in a service hallways until he realized it was Alex. Then he merely nodded and went on her way. She wasn't up for the ritual of the large doors, the main hallways that night. She felt tired, lonely, and she felt guilty for feeling that way, especially after the sound of Patrice's voice when she called. So when she finally entered the calm of the lounge, she was already looking for Liz.

Donna noted Alex's entrance and nodded to her. It seemed clear that she was looking for someone, probably Liz, but you could never be sure with Alex. In any event, Alex wasn't looking for her, so she simply left the blonde to her searching. She ran her fingers through Michael's hair, content to sip her drink and observe the room.

When she didn't see Liz there, Alex asked. But the judge hadn't appeared that night, and at that point, Alex thought it was unlikely that she would. She sighed as she waited for her drink to be poured, and then her eyes once again lighted on Donna. The woman was no substitute, but Alex thought she might not turn her down. She straightened her shoulders as she walked over. "May I join you?"

"Of course." Donna sat up a bit straighter and motioned to a seat on the couch. She nudged Michael out of the way with her foot. "Did you find whomever you were looking for?"

"Ah, no...but I wasn't really looking..." Alex just shook her head and took the seat. She didn't feel like explaining just then. As she took a long sip of her drink, she ran her fingers through her hair. It was hard not to simply...talk about it. But Alex wasn't ready to put her feelings together just yet.

"Forgive me if I'm intruding, by you look a bit flustered." Donna patted Michael's shoulder and sent him away. "Is everything okay?"

Alex sighed softly as she settled into the seat. Liz might have let her waffle a bit, but Donna was, apparently a different story. "Patrice is out of town and Sabina's on a date. I guess I was just..." She shrugged.

"Lonely?" Donna looked at Alex sympathetically. "And hoping Liz might help with that?" It seemed obvious now why Alex had come to the club.

"Something like that," Alex said quietly. She looked down into her glass and sighed. There was something off about being at the club with neither Sabina nor Patrice. And it seemed more pronounced now that Sabina seemed to be finding herself outside of her role in their relationship and with what Patrice had told her that day...

Donna nodded. "Is there anything that I can do?"

"Patrice called today... She was offered a job in Seattle, and I..." Alex shook her head. There were too many ways to end that sentence.

Donna put her drink down and stood up, holding a hand out to Alex. "Come on." She waited for Alex to make a decision.

For half a moment, Alex gaped, but she quickly made up her mind. it was hardly a decision, after all. She took Donna's hand. She needed it, knew she needed it because it was too hard to make sense of something that seemed so simple.

Donna held Alex's hand as she led her back through the hallways to her room. Once they were there, she squeezed Alex's hand before she let it go. "What do you need from me?"

"I need..." Alex rubbed her head as she shook it. "I need a respite from thought right now... There's so much to lose," she said quietly. "But I can't begrudge her wanting this."

"Alright." Donna squeezed Alex's shoulder. "Get undressed." If Alex wanted to be able to stop thinking for a while, Donna could oblige her.

Alex took a deep, shaking breath, as if it were her first time to do something like this. She closed her eyes for half a moment in an attempt to clear all competing thoughts away. Then, she began to undress, letting her muscles dictate what they knew, what they could do efficiently with no negotiation.

As soon as Alex was undressed, Donna rubbed a hand over Alex's shoulder, trying to calm her. Whatever was really on her mind was clearly troubling her far more than she was admitting. Donna retrieved a collar and buckled it around Alex's neck, hoping that it would help focus her mind. She wasn't sure yet just what she wanted to do with Alex. "Good."

Alex centered herself, feeling comfort in the leather. She sank to her knees, lowering her eyes as she waited. Waiting was easy, usually. She could let herself go, become blank as she focused on perfect posture and the pain of staying in one position for so long. But it was difficult to find that then.

Donna kept touching Alex, running her hands over Alex's shoulders. "Out of practice?"

She straightened, trying to resist the urge to bristle at that. Alex kept her eyes forward and tried not to shiver under the soft touch. "Forgive me," she murmured.

"Mmm. Are you sure that you really want forgiveness, Alex?" Donna picked up a short whip. "Because I don't think that's why you're here tonight."

The tone, the sight of the whip...Alex's mind began to clear and she was able to still herself completely. She did not answer, but she ventured to flick her eyes up to meet Donna's for a moment.

Donna flicked the whip. "I don't think this will be much a punishment for you, so much as a reward. And I think you're going to have to convince me that you deserve a reward before you get one."

"Yes, Donna," Alex said, breathless as her worries turned to anticipation.

Donna sat and regarded Alex critically. "Do you think you can find something to do that will impress me?" She knew Alex could be creative, and whatever she chose to do would give Donna some insight in to just how far she wanted to take things that night.

Alex nodded slowly as a myriad of possibilities ran through her mind. She looked up to Donna, trying to guess what the brunette would like. "There is a contingent here that would enjoy..." She paused, searching for the word, "merriment and a bit of a gamble. It wouldn't be hard to set up races or some other sort of game." There was no game room in the club in New York as there was in Paris, but sometimes things happened seemingly spontaneously in the public spaces. It was not something Alex was eager to endure, but that was part of the point.

"That isn't beneath your dignity?" Donna smirked, knowing that if Alex chose to put herself in this position, she wouldn't say no, but she wanted her to acknowledge it. She was already anticipating just what sort of contest Alex might set up.

The blonde flushed lightly. "I have no dignity here," she said quietly, knowing that her pride was something that she had never really been able to let go, even at the club.

Donna nodded. "Go set it up then." There were some benefits to having Alex at her beck and call for a night. She doubted that there were many other subs that could arrange something so complicated so quickly. Done properly, it could take weeks, but Donna was sure that Alex's impromptu version would suffice for the night.

Alex stood and hurried out to find Brynn, seeking the manager in her office before going to the lounge to see if she might be behind the bar. She didn't want to keep Donna waiting long.

Brynn looked up from the glass she was polishing, a bit surprised to see Alex in a collar. Still, she didn't let it throw her for too long. "Yes?" Her tone was much more commanding than it normally was when she spoke to Alex.

Alex lowered her eyes, posture changing according to Brynn's tone. It was easy to forget her position when she was not immersed night after night. But she felt the collar around her neck acutely. "Donna had hoped I might set up a game in the great room. I'm sure Jonas and several others would be interested..."

Brynn nodded, understanding immediately. "Of course. You may inquire if you like. If there's enough interest, then the space is yours." Brynn was certain that there would be, particularly if Jonas and Alex were involved. "Do you require anything?"

"Thank you," she said deferentially. She then proceeded to explain to Brynn what she had in mind. "If that isn't too much trouble."

Brynn nodded again. "I'll see to it. Go speak with Jonas."

After a brief talk with Jonas in which Alex endured a few touches that were more than casual so as to speed the process along, she returned to Donna's room and knocked politely before going inside. "Everything has been arranged," she said, eyes lowered to the floor.

Donna smiled. "Perfect." She got up and followed Alex back into the great room. "So, what is it that you have planned for my entertainment?"

"Would you like me to detail it for you or would you rather watch and see?" Alex asked, tone matter of fact. The room was filling with just the people Alex thought Jonas would find, and a large area in the middle had been marked off, though it had not yet been set up.

"I think I'll watch." Donna had an inkling of what Alex had planned and she was already smiling at the idea. It was perfect. "I suppose that you had better go take your place." Other slaves were congregating inside the ring and Brynn was standing among them, a clear cylinder full of small, metallic balls in her hands.

When Alex took her place, she was standing beside Thomas, who was no doubt with Jonas that night. She didn't acknowledge him or any of the other slaves, however, as she settled onto her hands and knees and lifted her chin, poised, waiting.

Brynn looked down at the slaves, making sure that they were all on their hands and knees. They were in an almost perfect ring around her, only leaving a small space at her back, knowing that it wouldn't be a prime position to start from. She spoke to them, and to the crowd that had gathered to watch. "There are 100 balls in this container. Whoever returns the most to his or her master wins. We play until all of the balls have been found. If all of the balls haven't been retrieved in the next ten minutes, everyone gets a paddling." Brynn let the last of her instructions hang in the air for a long moment as a second group of slaves walked in holding paddles. It wasn't a part of Alex's original plan, but Brynn didn't think that anyone would mind. "Ready?" Brynn held the cylinder out over their heads. "Go!" She turned the cylinder over, delighting in the noise that the balls made against the floor as they bounced and rolled in every direction imaginable.

Alex knew she had the distinct disadvantage of having not been on her knees in this way in quite some time. But she had experience on her side, as Jonas had quite a fondness for these sorts of things, and she had endured other sorts of games when he visited New York before. She moved forward, nearly knocking Thomas out of the way and took a ball between her teeth, hurrying to drop it at Donna's feet and begin the process again.

Donna laughed as Alex place the first ball at her feet. She picked it up, holding it where the person keeping track would see it. It was heavier than she thought it would be, and the slick surface would make them hard to hold onto when the only thing you could use was your mouth. She picked up a few more balls that Alex had brought back, thinking that she was doing very well, but according to the official score keeper, it still looked like Thomas was in the lead. There were enough slaves that she didn't think it would actually take them the full ten minutes, but that was only assuming that everyone was playing fairly. Just because she hadn't slipped a ball up her sleeve, didn't mean that no one else had.

As she scrambled towards a ball near one of the sides of the ring, Alex could see Thomas coming closer to it as well. She used her hip to push him aside, picking it up quickly before he could recover. It was difficult to keep in place, and she didn't have a good hold on it. But Alex prayed she didn't drop it before she got back to Donna once again.

Donna took the ball directly from Alex's mouth, but grabbed the back of her neck before she could turn around again. There might not be any rules against that sort of behavior, but that didn't mean that Donna wasn't going to punish Alex for getting rough. She held Alex there for a long minute before letting her go back to the competition.

Alex's face flushed in frustration. Liz probably would have applauded her efforts. And she knew Jonas had to be even more smug over that. She lunged for another ball and took it back to Donna, hurrying away to find any that were left.

Donna divided her attention between watching Alex and watching the scoreboard. After a bit of quick math, she realized that only five balls remained and Alex was ahead by three. But she didn't see any of those balls on the floor, and time was quickly running out.

Alex didn't take the time to glance at the clock. Instead she was trying to find any of the balls she missed. They might have rolled away, to the actual corners of the rooms. Jonas probably had two or three in his pocket, but she knew seeming to give up would bring worse punishment. She was so intent on her search that she flinched when Brynn called time.

Donna smirked as Brynn started rounding up all of the slaves and the rest of the balls miraculously seemed to appear from nowhere.

Brynn looked over the scoreboard. "Well, Alex, you seem to have been in the lead when time ran out, but as time ran out, I can't declare you the winner." Brynn nodded to the slaves carrying paddles, letting them take up a position in the center of the room. "I suggest you all get into the proper position." She crossed her arms and watched closely as each of the slaves found a place in line and bent over.

Alex stood in front of Donna, knowing that it would afford her the best view. She bent gracefully but not before shooting Jonas a very quick glare.

Jonas chuckled at Alex's consternation, but wasn't at all disturbed by it. Donna simply shook her head. Brynn nodded for the slaves to begin. The paddles didn't all hit at exactly the same time, but it was close enough to make Brynn happy.

Alex bore it with as much dignity as she could muster, but the slave paddling her was strong enough to compensate for his ineptitude with the paddle. In the end, she could not stop her tears.

Brynn didn't let the paddling go on for too long, just long enough for the slaves to really feel it and for the room's other occupants to enjoy the spectacle. Unlike some of the other clubs, notably the one in LA, they didn't often do scenes with such large numbers, but it was a refreshing change of pace occasionally. Brynn was already thinking of doing something similar in a few weeks, something better planned and advertised.

When it was finished, Alex sniffed and returned to her hands and knees, crawling to Donna's feet. Donna ran her fingers though Alex's hair. "Well, I'm certainly impressed," though it was with the organization as much as Alex's win. She had a feeling that the former was more difficult than the latter. "I think we can go back to my room now."

Alex sighed in relief. Throughout the activity she had not once thought of Patrice or Sabina or work...or anything else that could have possibly been bothering her. But she did not like engaging in such displays when she didn't have to.

Once back in her room, Donna picked the whip back up. "Do you still want this?"

"Yes," Alex said with an immediacy that surprised her. "Please."

Donna was slightly taken aback by Alex's vehemence, but she nodded. "Where ever you like." There were several places in the room for Alex to lean against, from simply up against a wall, to the chest at the foot of the bed, or the bedpost, to a chain hanging from the ceiling. Dona wanted to know which she would choose.

Without hesitation, Alex chose the bedpost. She went to it and braced herself as she had been taught to do. Getting in position was almost a comfort, and she visibly relaxed into it.

Donna nodded, noting that Alex was choosing a punishment that she was clearly used to, rather than one that would inflict the most pain. That made her feel a bit better about the scene. She ran a hand down Alex's back and over her ass, checking to see just how hard the paddling had been. Satisfied with what she saw, she stepped away again and started swinging the whip.

When she felt the first sting, Alex drew in a deep breath. Everything that had been creeping back in began to disappear, and she focused only on the pain. She focused on not giving in, not crying out. Donna settled into a rhythm, laying the whip into Alex's back with precision.

Finally, Alex cried out as tears streamed down her cheeks. She relaxed her hold, nearly stumbled forward. It wasn't that she couldn't take more, but she had gotten what she had come for in the end.

As soon as Alex stumbled, Donna stopped, going to her side to make sure that she didn't actually fall. She pulled Alex into her arms and started wiping away her tears. "Enough for the night?"

"Thank you," Alex managed. "I..." She closed her eyes, wishing she would be walking away, going home to Patrice. "Thank you."

Donna nodded. "You're welcome."

When Donna had tended to her back, Alex dressed, leaving after thanking her again. The only reason to linger was a chance not to sleep alone, but Donna wasn't really the person Alex wanted to wake up next to. She fully expected Sabina to still be out when she got back, so she slipped her key into the door, intending to curl up with the dogs and fall asleep.

Sabina had been resting her head on couch as she knelt in the living room, but Alex's key in the door woke her. She wiped her eyes and squared her shoulders as she resumed her place, kneeling in the center of the floor.

The dogs didn't meet Alex at the door, which generally meant Sabina had fed them, but Alex thought it odd, as the brunette said she would be out before Alex got in. When she saw Sabina in the kneeling in the living room, Alex felt fresh tears sting her eyes, but she blinked them away quickly, dismissing the uncharacteristic wave of emotion. "Sabina..." She walked into the room, noting the outline of a crease on Sabina's cheek mirroring one in the sofa. Alex didn't smile, though her lips twitched. She wondered how long the girl had been waiting.

Sabina looked up at Alex, waiting for instructions. her date had gone well, but Alex had seemed a bit out of sorts when they had spoken on the phone earlier, so she had seem Nathalie home, spent a lovely few minutes kissing her goodnight, then returned to the penthouse, just in case Alex needed something, or wanted the company.

"Come here," Alex said quietly. She didn't wait for Sabina to get up. Instead, she went to the girl and took her elbows, helping her stand. Alex kissed her softly and pulled her close. "I just want to go to bed."

Sabina nodded. "Of course." She wrapped her arms around Alex, hugging her for a second before she headed toward the bedroom.

The blonde winced involuntarily but quickly recovered herself enough to follow Sabina. She didn't like to start habits, and letting Sabina sleep with her while Patrice was gone could definitely become one of those. But with everything so suddenly up in the air. Alex simply shook her head and sighed. She was tired.

Chapter Text

Sabina dropped her shopping bags and flopped onto Nathalie's bed as they walked into her bedroom, claiming what was, by far, the most comfortable spot a room otherwise devoted to doing homework and getting things accomplished. Nathalie even used an exercise ball as a desk chair, something that Sabina thought was inherently ridiculous and possibly more sadistic than anything that Alex or Patrice had ever thought to do to her. They had had a nice afternoon shopping, Sabina taking Nathalie to some of the places that Patrice had taken her, though she had avoided the lingerie store, wanting to save it for future surprises. She couldn't let Nathalie know all of her secrets, after all. "Mmm... I can't believe how tiring that was."

"You're tired?" Nathalie leaned against her desk, thoughtfully watching the languid ease with which Sabina stretched. She finally slipped her shoes off and went to join her. The day had been fun, and she had only thought about homework once or twice. but if Sabina was tired, she supposed she could get some of that done.

Sabina wrapped her arms around Nathalie. "Not tired, per say, just..." She nuzzled against Nathalie's neck, "tired of running around."

"Oh." Nathalie smiled at the touch and sighed softly as she let herself relax. "It was fun, though...to just get out and do something...frivolous, I guess."

"Frivolous?" Sabina looked at Nathalie incredulously. "Today was hardly frivolous." How you presented yourself to the world was important. And she had gotten several things that she though Alex and Patrice would appreciate. There were far too many important people there to show up in something less than ideal, even if she didn't get to keep it on for long. She shook her head at Nathalie.

"Well, yeah...but I mean...it's not like you're going to be wearing the stuff you bought to school..." Nathalie said as she propped up on her elbow. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate Sabina's purchases. Seeing her try them on had been incredibly pleasant.

"Oh...right. The club." Nathalie's face fell a little bit. She really hadn't done much thinking about the club, save to worry that Therese thought she was being incredibly rude by not having come back yet.

Sabina looked at Nathalie with concern. "Did I say something wrong?"

"No." A smile came to her face quickly as she sat up. "Not at all. Why would you have said something wrong?"

"You just looked upset." Sabina rubbed her hand over Nathalie's thigh. "And now you're doing that thing where you smile too much to try to cover it up."

Nathalie frowned and wrinkled her nose slightly. How did Sabina know that? "I am not. I have no idea what you're talking about." She got up and went back to perching on the desk and crossed her arms, trying to look stern.

"Um, you know that doesn't work on me, right?" Sabina sat up and tried very hard not to smile at how cute Nathalie's stern expression really was.

"It works for Alex and Patrice..." She shifted her lips, trying not to smile.

Sabina chuckled and stood, walking over to Nathalie and wrapping her arms around her. "You're not Alex or Patrice," she smirked. "And you're not going to whip me if I ignore your little glares."

"Well..." Nathalie settled into Sabina's arms, putting her hands on the brunette's hips. "No, I guess not. But...if I knew how, I might," she teased.

"You know," Sabina leaned in for a quick kiss. "If you stopped trembling every time Alex walked into a room, I'm sure she'd be willing to teach you."

"I..." Nathalie set her lips. "I think I'll pass. And I don't tremble every time she walks in a room. And I get an pass for the last time I was at the club," she finished quietly, her mind drifting back to Lara.

Sabina rubbed the small of Nathalie's back. "Well, I guess so, but you should really go back. You know, falling off of a horse and so on." Never mind ho much Sabina would enjoy seeing Nathalie at the club.

"Yeah, my sister was always more into horses," Nathalie murmured. She took a deep breath and twisted out of Sabina's arms to go back to the bed. She had trained herself not to think of Lara, of the allure, of the night they spent together before the club. It was hard not to go back to it, though, to pick it apart. Even as much as Lara freaked her out, there was something fascinating about the woman. "Therese gave me a year's membership. She really didn't need to."

"You mean you haven't used it?" Sabina was again looking at Nathalie incredulously. "Now you have to go back." Sabina followed Nathalie to the bed.

"What? No...no, I really don't..." Alex and Patrice had been really great to her, but Nathalie really didn't want to embarrass herself again.

"Of course you do." Standing in front of her, Sabina wrapped her arms around Nathalie's shoulders. "What will my aunt think if the girl I'm dating turns down her hospitality?" It was, admittedly, a low blow, but Sabina was sure that Nathalie was just over thinking the entire situation and worried about things that only existed in her head.

"Oh, God, is she going to be upset with me?" Nathalie said, eyes wide and completely serious. She stiffened with stress in Sabina's embrace.

"I don't know." Sabina looked at her with wide eyes, playing it up before she started smiling, unable to leave Nathalie so stressed out. "I'm sure she won't care, but I would like to be able to go to the club with you..." There was a hint of pleading in her voice. "I promise it'll be okay. Lara isn't even in the country anymore."

Sabina looked at Nathalie questioningly. "You have a membership and Therese is my great aunt. I don't think there's much Brynn wouldn't let us do." She said it like it should have been obvious.

"Uhm...right." Nathalie did the smiling thing again, but she stopped when she realized it. And that had the unfortunate effect of making her look like she was trying to be stern.

Sabina chuckled and bent down to kiss Nathalie, chasing away her stern expression. "Come on. Let's go tonight." Better to do it before Nathalie could spend too long thinking about it.

Nathalie returned the kiss, but she crossed her arms at the suggestion. "Tonight...Sabina..."

"Tonight. Right now." Sabina pulled Nathalie up. "Come on. You can borrow one of my dresses." Normally Sabina would want to spend more time getting ready, but spontaneousness seemed to overwhelm Nathalie's normal caution.

"Fine, but..." Nathalie licked her lips thoughtfully. She didn't want to get in trouble, but seemed like any higher authorities at the club were taken care of with Sabina's family connection. But there was still Alex and Patrice. "But you have to call Alex and Patrice and ask if it's okay first," she said matter of factly.

Sabina rolled her eyes, but pulled out her cell phone. "Patrice is in Seattle, so Alex will have to do. And if she doesn't pick up, we're just going to go." She dialed the number and waited.

Nathalie bit her lip, biting back a smile. She couldn't believe Sabina actually did it, but she kept herself composed as she waited.

Sabina sighed as Alex picked up. She had been hoping that she would be too busy. She didn't even bother to say hello. "I want to take Nathalie to the club but she insisted that I call you first." She was rolling her eyes.

"Yes." Sabina balanced on Nathalie's exercise ball, bouncing as she talked. "If that's okay with you, of course." She might find taking orders from Nathalie somewhat ridiculous, though it did give her pause for thought, but Alex was another matter entirely and simply hearing her voice automatically made her more deferential. "Therese gave a year's membership and she hasn't used it. It's only... polite."

Alex chewed thoughtfully on the end of her glasses for a moment. "Naturally. Let me talk to Nathalie."

Sabina blinked at the unexpected request. "Of course." She handed the phone out to Nathalie. "She wants to talk to you," she shrugged.

Nathalie's jaw dropped and she took the phone automatically. She couldn't imagine why Alex would need to speak with her. Well, she supposed she could if she really thought about it, but that made her even more nervous. The brunette held the phone up to her ear as though it might suddenly turn into a live squirrel and bite her. She glared at Sabina for half a moment before answering, "Hi... I mean, hello..."

Alex held back her smile, knowing it would color her voice. She sat up and crossed her legs, almost as if Nathalie were right in front of her. "So you and Sabina are going to the club?"

"Um...we were just thinking of it, since I have the membership and all and...she wants to go and I haven't yet and..." Nathalie took a breath and tried to make some amount of sense, "Yes, with your permission of course."

It would have been difficult not to laugh--Patrice would have laughed, and Alex was prepared for it, but something sank in the pit of her stomach. Patrice wasn't there. She wasn't sure when Patrice would be there again. "No whips...in fact, don't use anything that you don't know how to use, do you understand me?"

Nathalie was nodding even though she knew Alex couldn't see her, and was well aware she was turning bright red, "No...I wouldn't even know what to ...I....yes I understand," she stammered, really hoping she could get off the phone soon. Hearing Alex talk so easily about....things...was making Nathalie sweat.

"Good." Alex took a breath, pausing for a beat too long. "Enjoy yourselves," she said before hanging up. There was no need to talk to Sabina again; Nathalie seemed scared enough to keep the brunette in line.

Sabina looked at Nathalie as she put the phone down. "Well?" She was incredibly curious about what Alex had said to the the other woman.

Nathalie took a moment to scrub her face, as if that would make her stop blushing. "She said...uhm, no...whips...or...yeah, stuff. She said to have fun..." she said in a breath.

"Right." Sabina nodded. That made sense. She would have to be careful that she didn't push Nathalie into doing anything she wasn't ready for yet. "Well, we should get dressed." She started pulling things out of bags and tossing them onto the bed.

Nathalie let Sabina dictate what they wore. She was too nervous to worry about that. And she didn't really notice the dress she was in until she could see herself reflected in the doors of the elevator once they got to the club. She tugged at the hem a little bit as she shifted.

Sabina took Nathalie's hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "We'll just get a drink or something. This doesn't have to be complicated." She kissed Nathalie's cheek, then wiped away the lipstick she had left there.

"I'm okay...really. It's just...the baggage, I guess." She shrugged. It was difficult to reconcile that there were parts of her experience with Lara that she enjoyed quite a bit. And she was mulling over that as she let Sabina lead them to the bar and get them drinks.

The drinks were disappointingly non-alcoholic and the bartender simply shook his head when Sabina looked at him questioningly. "Let's go sit down." Sabina pulled Nathalie over to a couch, then pulled her down onto it.

Nathalie looked around thoughtfully. The club wasn't as crowded as the last time she had been there, and that in itself made her feel more comfortable. They were getting some interesting looks, but no one had tried to throw them out. She settled against Sabina and sipped her...whatever it was the bartender had made. It was too fruity. "so, what do we do now?"

Sabina shrugged. "Whatever you like." She leaned into Nathalie. "We could get one of the house slaves to entertain us, or we could go to the dining room or the sauna or anything else you can think of." She wanted Nathalie to feel comfortable.

Nathalie broke into a smile and laughed lightly. From Alex, she might have been amazed, but from Sabina it just seemed almost bordering ridiculous. "Well, uhm..." She took Sabina's hand and toyed with her fingers. "How do you like to be...entertained?"

Sabina thought about it for a moment. "You know, I'm normally the one doing the entertaining. I'm not sure." She shrugged, then leaned in and kissed Nathalie. "I could always curl up at your feet..." Her voice was sultry even if she wasn't entirely serious.

Nathalie shivered and felt something quicken in her core at the suggestion. She ran her fingers through Sabina's hair as if feeling it for the first time. Was this how Lara felt, how Alex and Patrice felt? "If...if you curled up at my feet, I might have to make you take that dress off," she said, scarcely believing her own words.

Rather than responding, Sabina slid to the floor. If this was what Nathalie really wanted, and that she had actually managed to say the words, when Sabina knew how many of them she kept back, indicated that she did, then Sabina would happily indulge her. Even if she was sure that she'd have to suppress a laugh or two along the way. "If that's what you want."

Nathalie took a shuddering breath at the sight. It wasn't like seeing Sabina or someone else's pet at someone else's feet; it was so much better than that. But she knew she had to keep a clear head, to remember that Sabina wasn't really hers in that way and that she had no idea what she was doing, which could be dangerous. "I think it's...a pretty good start," she said as she shifted in order to stroke Sabina's hair.

Sabina leaned into Nathalie's hand for a moment before pulling away and pulling off her dress. Left in her lingerie and heals, she shivered at the temperature change. Sabina looked up at Nathalie. "Better?"

The brunette licked her lips as she nodded. She didn't trust herself to speak again yet, but she had no difficulty in reaching forward to brush her fingers over Sabina's nipples through the lacy bra. Sabina shuddered and pushed into Nathalie's fingers, putting her head down on Nathalie's knee. She knew exactly what sort of effect she was having on the other woman and she was determined to milk it. She looked up at Nathalie and batted her eyelashes.

"Do..." Nathalie swallowed and straightened her shoulders. "You should go and see about what rooms we can use tonight," she said a little more authoritatively. She didn't know if Sabina could use Alex and Patrice's, but she hoped she could work something out.

"Of course." Sabina elegantly stood and went to find Brynn. It only took a brief explanation, possibly made shorter by an earlier phone call from Alex, for her request to be granted. Returning to Nathalie, Sabina sunk to her knees. "We've been given permission to use Alex and Patrice's rooms. Or Therese's. She won't be here tonight." Her first instinct had been to turn Brynn down immediately when she had offered those particular rooms, but part of her wanted to see how Nathalie reacted.

Nathalie's eyes went wide. She had seen Therese's office, and she didn't even want to fathom the woman's room. "No...I think Alex and Patrice's will be fine," she said a little breathlessly. After a moment, Nathalie stood, but she hesitated, not sure she remembered the way.

Sabina stood. "It's this way," she whispered, not wanting to embarrass Nathalie. While it looked like Nathalie was leading the way, Sabina was, in fact, subtlety guiding her down the proper hallways. Finally, she stopped at a familiar door.

She was more than grateful for Sabina's assistance, but Nathalie was aware that she was now looking at each and every one of the brunette's movements and expressions in a completely different way. It was different and thrilling. There was so much to focus on, and it seemed like all of her thoughts came together around that. It was like when she was speaking German or when she was doing an assignment that she was particularly passionate about. But it was even more physical than that.

When they got to the rooms, she let Sabina open the door. Nathalie stepped in, finding them as she remembered them--warm colors and very little that seemed personal. But the carpet seemed softer under her feet. She could tell it had just been vacuumed that day. She noticed that the sconces in the wall had actual, thick, waxy candles burning behind them. She wondered who lit them, who gave so much thought to designing them that way. She walked through the small sitting room into the bedroom, where the comforter was already folded down, waiting, ready. Everything at the club was ready, she was coming to realize.

Sabina followed Nathalie into the bedroom and wrapped her arms around her from behind. She was starting to be able to tell when Nathalie was thinking about something, trying to figure out some sort of problem, and she wanted to be supportive. She kissed Nathalie's neck. "Are you still good?"

Nathalie bit her lip and grasped Sabina's arm, leaning back into her. "I'm still good. Can...Sabina," she was blushing, but the words weren't as hard to say as she thought, "Can I tie you up?"

Sabina smiled against Nathalie's neck. "If that's what you want." She tightened her arms around the other woman. "There are restraints in that drawer," she pointed. "And rope or leather ties with clips in that one."She didn't know how proficient Nathalie was at knot tying, so she made sure to mention the easier option.

"Thanks." Nathalie pressed into the brunette once more, showing her appreciation for Sabina's patience. But she was already thrilled at the prospect of seeing the cuffs on Sabina's wrists, of watching and feeling her reactions. What she couldn't place about her own desire, her curiosity the first night with Lara was suddenly becoming very apparent. Nathalie took a deep breath and composed herself. She took out the cuffs, running her fingers over them before taking out the leather tethers. "On the bed please," she said, her voice finally even.

Sabina did as she was told and climbed up onto the bed. She watched Nathalie holding the cuffs for a moment before she laid down to wait. She shivered as Nathalie buckled the restraints around her wrists and ankles. This night was getting more and more interesting.

Nathalie stepped back and looked at Sabina thoughtfully. She smiled a small smile as she crawled onto the bed and kissed her, running a hand tentatively down her stomach. "I don't think you need these..." she said as she pulled Sabina's panties off. "Or this." She pulled the brunette up long enough to unhook her bra and rid her of it. Then she began to hook the tethers, trying not to fumble with them.

Naked, Sabina settled into the bed, still watching Nathalie's every move. She didn't care if she almost dropped the last of the tethers, she was just happy that she was trying. Her nipples were already hard and she was sure that she was already wet. Now it was just a matter of waiting.

Nathalie shivered at the sight and simply sat back on her heels for a moment to enjoy it. She took a deep breath before kissing Sabina again. "Tell me what you like..."

Sabina pulled at the restraints lightly, just making them jingle slightly and giving herself time to think. It wasn't an easy question to answer. "I... I like things that hurt. And I like things that are difficult." She didn't know if that would be too general for Nathalie or not. "I like being able to fight back. But this isn't supposed to be about what I like, and I like that." It certainly wasn't with Alex and Patrice, who normally made her do all sorts of things that she didn't like. By now, they were well aware of the activities that she reveled in and saved them for when she had been particularly good, instead forcing her to do things that were passive or monotonous. It was much more difficult to punish a slave that liked being shoved into a wall or paddled.

Nathalie shuddered lightly. She wasn't sure what she liked yet, but she found herself relishing having the opportunity to find out. Without much thought, she tweaked Sabina's nipples lightly and got off of the bed in order to slip out of her dress. Once she was in her lingerie, she climbed back on, between Sabina's legs. "I like touching you," she said, leaning down and nipping lightly at her inner thighs in turn.

"I like that too." Sabina squirmed and tried to close her legs around Nathalie, only to be stopped by the restraints.

Nathalie grinned at that, almost as if she had forgotten they were there. She began to touch Sabina's clit lightly, thoughtfully. "I wonder if I like it as much as you do, though..."

Sabina moaned and pressed against Nathalie's fingers. "I... I don't know."

The way Sabina was moaning was certainly a factor in Nathalie making up her mind. She pressed more intently, wanting to hear more. It was fascinating to watch her pull against the restraints, but more than that, it was almost more arousing than anything Nathalie had ever seen. She licked her lips lightly and pressed two fingers inside of the brunette, taking a shuddering breath at how wet she was.

Sabina pulled harder against the restraints, trying to touch Nathalie, trying to get closer. It was a habit that Alex and Patrice had broken her of, generally preferring it when she was more docile, but she wasn't used to being denied anything by Nathalie and it made it that much harder to resist.

Nathalie took shuddering breaths, drinking in every moment. She moved away slightly, just enough to make it impossible for Sabina to really reach her. "I think..." she said, surprised that her own voice came out so strong, "I'd really like it if you came, Sabina."

"Oh, God." Sabina tried to press into Nathalie, even though it was impossible. She moved frantically, trying to fulfill Nathalie's request and getting closer and closer. Finally, she shuddered, muscles clenching around Nathalie's fingers.

Nathalie smiled, taking pleasure in every moment she got to watch, in every sound Sabina made. Finally, she pulled away and on a whim, pressed her fingers to Sabina's lips.

Sabina automatically opened her mouth and sucked Nathalie's fingers in, licking them without even thinking about it.

A soft moan escaped Nathalie's lips. When she pulled away, she unclipped the brunette's ankle restraints before straddling her and unclipping her arms. Almost smirking, Nathalie bent to kiss her.

Sabina tilted her head up for the kiss, wrapping her arms around Nathalie's hips, but otherwise stopping herself from rebelling. She was still recovering from her orgasm, so everything was just a bit fuzzy.

Before she pulled away, Nathalie ran her fingers through Sabina's hair and caressed her cheek. She smiled, silently thanking her. "You can thank me now," she said with soft authority that surprised her.

Sabina smirked and flipped Nathalie onto her back, framing the brunette's body with her arms. "Mmm. Happily." She started by kissing Nathalie's throat, feeling her pulse beneath her tongue as she licked and sucked her way down to Nathalie's collarbones.

"God, yes," Nathalie breathed. She only hesitated a moment before tangling both of her hands in Sabina's dark curls, encouraging her to continue her move downward.

Sabina, however, was in no mood to be rushed and she didn't think that Nathalie was going to do anything about it. She leisurely sucked one of her nipples into her mouth, paying it a significant amount of attention before she moved on to the other.

Nathalie shivered, and while the attention was an absolutely delight, she didn't want to be teased. She tried to center herself, to keep focused on what she wanted Sabina to do, on how good that would feel. And she found herself tightening her grip on Sabina's hair as a warning.

Sabina moaned, even as she suppressed a chuckle. The hand in her hair didn't exactly hurt, but it did get Nathalie's point across. Sabina slid down Nathalie's body and pushed her tongue between her legs, immediately licking at her clit.

As she relaxed back into the pillow, Nathalie relaxed her grip on Sabina's hair. She was completely overwhelmed with how good it felt, with how Sabina moaned when she'd pushed her. She thought she understood now what she had so desperately been grasping for with Lara.

Sabina pushed her fingers into Nathalie, still licking her clit. She wanted to feel her come, wanted to hear her, and she did everything to make that possible. She nipped lightly at Nathalie's clit, then soothed it over with her tongue.

Nathalie gasped. "Do that again," she said breathlessly. She was already so close.

Sabina smiled as she complied, closing her teeth around Nathalie's clit a bit longer this time before replacing them with her tongue. It was definitely something that she was going to remember.

Finally, Nathalie shuddered, whimpering as she came quickly and hard. She scrambled to pull Sabina up, to hold her close and kiss her desperately until she was still again.

Sabina settled against Nathalie once she calmed down, wrapping herself around the other woman and holding her close. She nuzzled Nathalie's neck lazily and waited.

"Uhm..." Nathalie murmured, tightening her arms around Sabina. "I think I...yeah...that was..." She opened her eyes fully and looked down at Sabina, mind starting to go live with possibilities. "Can we come back again?"

Sabina chuckled at Nathalie's incoherence. "Absolutely. You do have a membership, after all. It would be a shame to waste it." She tangled their legs together. It hadn't been the most challenging of nights but Sabina cherished it. And she had a feeling that Nathalie would get there.

Chapter Text

Alex rubbed her eyes and carefully stretched out on the sofa. She was sore from the previous night at the club, and it had been two since she had actually caught Patrice. Porcelain put her head on one of the cushions and nuzzled Alex's hand, but Alex merely petted her distractedly as she tapped her phone against her chin. Finally, she called, not expecting to get anything other than Patrice's voicemail.

Patrice was just glancing at her phone to check the time and smiled when she saw Alex calling, "Hey! Good timing, I'm just leaving court. They settled during the morning recess. How have you been?"

"Busy," Alex answered after swallowing. She drew in a deep breath and ran her fingers through her hair. It was good to hear Patrice's voice, but she tried to stay objective. "How'd it go?"

"Very well, our clients are happy." The day was warm, and Patrice was taking her time walking back to the hotel. "My tickets home aren't for a few days yet, but I'm thinking of staying in town. James wants me to meet with the other partners and claims he's going to show me the best restaurant in town." She chewed her lip for a moment, "Is that alright though? I do miss you like crazy." Patrice smiled a little, "don't suppose I could convince you to take a few days and come out here and explore with me?"

At the beginning of the week, Alex would have moved mountains to rearrange her schedule to do just that, but now, she merely picked at one of the pillows on the sofa. "I can't...I'm sorry," she said softly. "Patrice, you're not seriously considering..." Alex shook her head. Of course Patrice was seriously considering it; Alex probably would have been too. But there was so much to think about...there were so many things that they had begun to build. "Sabina misses you," she said flatly. Alex didn't have to see Sabina to know it was true. And she had barely seen Sabina in the past week.

Patrice stopped outside a Starbucks. She had been about to cheerfully make a comment about how she could see four of the lit green signs from her current location when she caught Alex's tone. "Well....I...." She glanced at the pavement, trying to bite back several answers, "I...I guess I'm not dismissing it. I really can't, it's just too good. But I miss her too and you even more."

"I miss you too..." The unspoken 'but' hung in the air, and Alex knew she should have done better to conceal her own upset. She knew she wouldn't be able to leave New York for a few years, and she wasn't sure she was ready to leave again anyway. It was selfish; she knew she was being selfish. "Yeah...I'm just...sorry, I'm just tired." But she was getting up, heading to the bedroom to find something to wear to the club that night. Alex knew her tone was dismissive, and she didn't bother to try to cover that.

Patrice felt herself cringe a little, the high of the case and the offer deflating as she caught Alex's edge, knowing the mood the other blonde was now in. For the first time since she'd left a small part of her was glad for the 3,000 mile distance. "Oh...um...ok.." She couldn't really think of anything to say in reply, "Call me later?"
"Mmhm, yeah..." Alex squeezed her eyes shut to stave off any tears. A small part of her realized she was reacting badly to something that might not come to fruition, that she didn't have all of the information, that she wasn't allowing a chance to work through things that hadn't even happened yet. "Love you," she murmured as she opened her eyes again and shifted some things in her closet.

"You too." Patrice quietly ended the call and slipped inside to get her coffee and try to think things over.

Chapter Text

Sabina played with her food, stabbing at it without really eating. Alex seemed preoccupied and that worried her. Something wasn't right, but Sabina didn't know how to ask Alex about it. And Patrice hadn't called her since her second day in Seattle. She knew that she should be paying attention to Nathalie, but she just couldn't focus. "Mmhmm..." She nodded thoughtlessly.

"Uhm, 'mmhmm' isn't really an answer to 'do you want to go back to my place after this or see what's playing at that theater you like'." Nathalie folded her napkin and put it on the table before crossing her arms. She wasn't particularly mad that Sabina was a little distant; at first, she just thought it was because the brunette was tired. But the conversation had gotten too one sided even for her.

"Oh." Sabina looked up. "I'm sorry. I'm just preoccupied." She rubbed her forehead. "We should just go back to your place. I don't think that I can really concentrate on a film right now."

Nathalie was already handing her card to the approaching waiter. When he brought it back, she signed quickly and slid out of the booth, taking Sabina's hand when she stood. "Is everything okay?" she asked quietly. Nathalie didn't think it was her; at least, she hoped it wasn't her. But she supposed Sabina could be bored or restless. She had turned down a lunch date the day before, but that was because she had a meeting followed by a class. "I'm sorry I couldn't come to lunch yesterday," she added worriedly.

"Huh?" Sabina furrowed her brow, trying to remember the invitation to lunch. "Oh. It's cool. I just... I think there's something up with Patrice and Alex..." She couldn't really pinpoint anything specific, but something just felt wrong.

"Uhm...weren't they having," Nathalie lowered her voice as they walked into her building, "phone sex the last time you talked to me about them?"

Sabina started climbing the stairs up to Nathalie's apartment. "Yeah. But I think something's happened. Alex has been going to the club alone, I think. And she just seems to be..." Sabina shrugged. "discontent or withdrawn or something..."

Nathalie bit her lip, considering that. She was silent for the rest of the climb and as she unlocked her door. Thankfully, her roommates were out, and they had the place to themselves. But she took Sabina's hand and led her to her bedroom, closing the door behind them. It made sense that Sabina would worry; she had another year of school, and so much of her life was entangled with Alex and Patrice's--Nathalie got that. But she didn't know how to make the uncertainty in the brunette's voice better. "Well...I mean, I guess she could be going just for company or...hmm..." Nathalie didn't know if it made sense or not that Alex would go without Sabina. "Maybe she's just ready for Patrice to come back?"

Sabina looked down. "She had whip marks on her back." She sat on Nathalie's bed and put her head in her hands, not entirely sure that she should have shared that with Nathalie. not that Alex would go without Sabina.

"Oh!" Nathalie's eyes went wide. She sat next to Sabina and ran her fingers through her hair lightly. "That's...I'm sorry," she said quietly, not sure what else to say. it didn't really seem like Alex would want to go and get a whipping for no reason, but Nathalie couldn't be sure. Sabina, would probably know better.

Sabina leaned into Nathalie. "And Patrice hasn't called. If she's gone for more than a few days, she'll call me, just to check in. Something's going on and neither of them are talking about it."

Nathalie pursed her lips, not liking to feel helpless and knowing Sabina was feeling that way to an extreme just then. She pulled the brunette up and into her arms. "I know that must be really scary..."

Sabina just nodded, leaning against Nathalie. "I just... I wish I knew what was going on." She sighed. "I'm sorry that I haven't been much fun tonight."

"It's okay." She rubbed Sabina's side lightly. "Maybe you could...try to talk to Alex or give Patrice a call. I'm sure they'd want to know that you were worried." Nathalie liked to fix things, wanted to fix things, but she fully realized that that happened in steps and over time...and that she couldn't fix everything, especially when she didn't have all of the information or any control whatsoever over the situation. But she knew that she could try to help a little bit by taking Sabina's mind off of it when Sabina was ready to let her.

Sabina nodded. "Yeah, maybe I'll call Patrice tomorrow." Between the two of them, Patrice was much more likely to talk to her. "Thank you." She kissed Nathalie's cheek.

"You could...stay here tonight if you wanted to...maybe just get away for a night." Nathalie smiled before placing a lingering kiss on Sabina's cheek, hoping that it didn't seem weird after the heavy conversation.

A tiny smile appeared on Sabina's lips and she looked up at Nathalie. "Yeah. That would be nice." She leaned in, hoping for a kiss, knowing that it would make her feel better.

Nathalie was happy to oblige, kissing Sabina gently before pulling her in, drawing it out. She wrapped her arms around her tightly, hoping to comfort as much as she was hoping to simply feel more of the brunette against her.

Sabina pressed into Nathalie, almost desperately wanting to be closer, wanting the comfort that Nathalie was offering. The kiss took on an edge of that desperation as she opened her mouth under Nathalie's, offering herself to the other woman.

The change took Nathalie by surprise and she moaned into Sabina's mouth, pulling away only to take a few jagged breaths. She pressed Sabina back gently and straddled her, instinctively trying to give her what she wanted. "Are you okay?"

Sabina nodded, reaching up for Nathalie. "Please, I need..." Her eyes conveyed just what she needed. "Please."

She shivered and pressed her hands under Sabina's shirt as she bent, kissing her again, this time more aggressively. If it would get Sabina to forget for just a little while, Nathalie wouldn't say no.

Sabina pressed up into the kiss, letting Nathalie take over completely. It only took her a second to squirm out of her shirt and she tossed it away, reaching for Nathalie's hips to pull her closer, needing the contact.

Nathalie pressed down into her and ran her hands up Sabina's sides, encouraging her to arch up so she could get her bra off. When she did, Nathalie smiled and wasted no time in kissing down her neck, to one of her breasts. She cupped the other as she took one of Sabina's nipples in her mouth, nipping it lightly.

Sabina inhaled sharply when she felt Nathalie's teeth on her nipple and dug her fingertips into Nathalie's hips. "Yes," she moaned. The slight pain sent a rush through her and she started pulling at Nathalie's shirt. "Want to feel you. Please..."

At the pinprick feel of Sabina's fingernails, Nathalie moaned softly. She kissed to Sabina's other nipple, nipping it harder as she shifted to press her thigh between Sabina's legs.

"Ahh." Sabina hissed at the pain, grabbing Nathalie's head and tightly holding it to her breast as she arched up off of the bed. But her grip only lasted a second as she starting tugging at Nathalie's shirt once again. She winched when she heard something rip, but it didn't stop her from pulling it over Nathalie's head.

Nathalie stopped only to pull the ruined shirt off and slip out of her bra. She began to unbutton Sabina's pants, but merely pushed her hand underneath them without taking the time to remove them. "God," she moaned, feeling how wet Sabina was already.

Sabina sucked in another breath, her hips jerking reflexively. "Please." She covered Nathalie's breasts with her hands, squeezing them, not coordinated enough to do much more. "Please," she breathed the word, looking up at Nathalie pleadingly.

Hearing the desperation lacing the word combined with the look in Sabina's eyes made Nathalie shudder. She wanted to hear more, to feel more; she wanted to keep pushing. But there would be time, and she could explore more. She smiled, kissing Sabina hungrily as she pressed her fingers into her.

"God." Sabina pulled away slightly, the feeling of Nathalie's fingers inside of her was almost too much and she was quickly becoming overwhelmed. But it only took her a second to adjust, and she pushed back enthusiastically, tilting her hips to give Nahtalie better access. She didn't want to pull away. She didn't want to deny Nathalie anything. She grabbed Nathalie's hips again, keeping her close. "Yes. Please. Nathalie... Need you. Need you so badly." Nathalie was kissing her again and she broke the kiss to bury her head in the curve of Nathalie's neck.

Nathalie steadied herself by wrapping an arm around Sabina, holding her too tightly and nipping her ear as she moaned. She pressed into her more deeply and scraped her thumbnail over the brunette's clit.

"Oh," Sabina whimpered, clinging to Nathalie, wrapping her legs around her, as her muscles started to contract and she started to shake.

"Wanna see you come," Nathalie whispered against her ear as she curled her fingers.

Sabina whimpered again, biting her lip as she nodded. It only took another second before she did just that, her muscles clenching around Nathalie's hand as she dug her nails into her shoulders. Nathalie leaned back in that moment and watched her face, shuddering at the sight. She bent to kiss Sabina, pressing into her softly and withdrawing as the brunette came down.

Even though she was slowly calming down, Sabina only clung to Nathalie more tightly, refusing to let her go. She pressed her face into Nathalie's neck, trying to hold back her tears and failing. It was all just too much and she couldn't stop them, but she tried to keep her breathing steady, not wanting Nathalie to notice.

"It's okay," Nathalie said. She felt the tension in Sabina's limbs, and she could feel the tears against her own skin. She bit her lips and pushed away thoughts that she had done something wrong. Clearly, that was both selfish and probably wrong. "I've got you...it's okay..."

Sabina nodded, finally giving in to the emotion and sobbing. Her voice was shaky when she said, "Thank you."

Shifting so she could lie on her back, Nathalie pulled Sabina closer, holding her tightly, gently. Her own desires were forgotten for the moment.

Sabina's tears didn't last for long, Nathalie's embrace calming her more quickly than she thought possible. Finally, she wiped her eyes, pressing the bridge of her nose against Nathalie's shoulder. "I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me."

"It's okay..." Nathalie smiled at the touch. "You've got a lot on your mind, I guess..."

Sabina nodded, wrapping her arms back around Nathalie, wanting the continued comfort. "Still, I didn't mean to cry all over you."

Nathalie bit her lip as she looked down at Sabina. "Well...it's not like you ruined one of my blouses or anything." She grinned hoping to lighten the mood.

Sabina smiled, managing to chuckle a little. "Yeah, You'd probably make me do your laundry or buy you a new one or something."

"Maybe I'd just take yours while you did my laundry..." she teased, smirking.

Sabina shivered and squirmed closer. "Mmm... Well, it really is good that managed to get it off of you first. Though, I think I might have hear something rip..." Sabina smirked back at Nathalie.

Nathalie bit her lip and furrowed her brow. She vaguely remembered that, but it hadn't mattered at the time. Letting go of Sabina, she sat up and looked for the shirt, spotting it hanging from the corner of her bedside table. "Oh..." she said as she picked it up. One of the seams at the shoulder had ripped and the fabric was torn below it. "Well...it's okay." She really liked that shirt.

Sabina attempted to look contrite, but failed spectacularly, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "I'll get you a new shirt." She quickly kissed Nathalie. "And you can punish me for it later."

Nathalie couldn't resist that smiled and flopped down next to her, smiling herself. "You could make it up to me..." she said hopefully.

"I suppose I could, yes." Sabina wriggled out of her own pants before tackling Nathalie's.

Nathalie stopped her and a worried look crossed her face. "You don't have to...I mean, if you're not okay..." She didn't want to be completely insensitive.

"You're sweet." Sabina leaned in and kissed Nathalie softly, then finished pulling her pants and panties off. "But I think I'm good. At least for now." And it helped that Nathalie was being so understanding. It was exactly what she needed.

She licked her lips after the kiss and smiled, settling back into the pillows. "Okay...I'm glad."

"Mmmm, me too," Sabina said as she straddled Nathalie. "So... In what form would you like your repayment?" She was already rubbing her hands against Nathalie's stomach.

Nathalie shivered underneath her and put her hands on Sabina's hips. "I think you're starting off pretty good, but you're going to have to stop teasing..."

"But what if I like teasing?" She never really got to do exactly what she wanted when she was with Patrice or Alex, but in that regard, Nathalie was completely different. Sabina smirked as she leaned down to suck one of Nathalie's nipples into her mouth. It quickly hardened under her tongue, and as soon as it did, she bit it lightly.

"Well...what if I don't?" Nathalie ran her fingers through Sabina's hair and drew in a jagged breath. It was hard to find anything coherent to say when just the slightest touch felt so good.

"I think that depends entirely on what you're willing to do about it." Sabina ran her fingers through the hair between Nathalie's legs, only barely letting her fingernails touch what was underneath.

"I..." Nathalie squirmed and tried to take a deep breath. She wrapped a hand around the back of Sabina's neck and pulled her down into a fierce kiss, hoping that would convey the words she couldn't seem to find just then.

As soon as Nathalie let her come up for air, Sabina pushed her fingers into the other woman. "You're going to kiss me into submission?" She couldn't stop herself from teasing Nathalie, and it had inspired her to give Nathalie exactly what she wanted.

She whimpered, both relieved and frustrated. "No...yes..." Nathalie arched into the touch. "I don't know...God, just...just fuck me, Sabina..." She almost surprised herself with the words, but that's what she wanted.

And that was precisely what Sabina gave her, steadily thrusting her fingers into Nathalie. She waited until Nathalie was squirming under her before she pressed her thumb into Nathalie's clit, rubbing it vigorously. "Anything you want," Sabina kissed her, "Anything..."

The sounds Nathalie made were incoherent, and she simply pulled Sabina into another kiss, nipping at her lip as she pressed into her. She was close to the edge, and feel the other woman's mouth against her pushed her over it. Nathalie tightened and shuddered as she moaned.

Sabina held Nathalie as she calmed, keeping their bodies pressed together as tightly as she could. Once Nathalie finally relaxed, she loosened her grip and merely curled up around her.

Nathalie snuggled close to her and only moved again to pull the covers around them and turn off the light. "Night," she whispered, hoping Sabina would get at least a little respite in sleeping there.

"Buona notte," Sabina felt at peace for the moment, but she had a feeling that it wouldn't last long. Still, she was going to try to get as much sleep as she could and ignore any guilt she felt at leaving Alex alone for the night.

Chapter Text

Sabina had crawled out of Nathalie's bed ridiculously early, hoping that she would get there before Alex got up to start her day, but when she unlocked the door, she knew that something wasn't right. A quick check of bedroom showed her a bed that hadn't been slept in, and there was no way that Alex was already at work at five in the morning. She might get up that early if she had to, but she had never left that early. She tried calling her but only got sent to her voicemail. The combination worried her and she didn't even think of the time difference as she dialed Patrice's cell phone number.

It took Patrice several rings before she realized the noise pulling her out of sleep was her phone. Then she started awake, glancing at the bedside clock and seeing it was the middle of the night. She picked up her phone as quickly as she could, mind immediately going to what might be wrong at home.

"Patrice?" Sabina was biting her lip and pacing. She had wrapped a blanket around herself while she waited for Patrice to pick up and she was about to start chewing on it.

"Sabina..." Patrice brushed her hair back out of her face, now more awake, "What's going on? Are you alright?"

Sabina dropped a hand to Persia's neck, trying to calm the restless dog. "I'm fine. Do you know where Alex is? I don't think she came home last night." Porcelain was pacing and whining and Sabina realized that they might not have been fed.

Patrice felt a chill run through her and she sat up in the bed, reaching for the light. "And she didn't say where she was going? Did you see her last night? Have you called?" Patrice knew they were all redundant questions; the girl wasn't stupid, but they were the first things that came to mind.

When she checked the food dishes, Sabina saw that the dogs had been fed, but that didn't make her feel much better. "She didn't say that she was going anywhere when I left for my date, and she didn't answer my call." She bit her lip. "She... she's been going to the club, but I didn't want to call there and disrupt everyone."

Patrice took a breath. "She's been going without you I assume, then?" The news told the blonde just how upset the week was making Alex, and she cringed, imagining what turns her nights might have taken. However, Sabina's information also gave Patrice a starting point to find Alex, assuming nothing worse had happened, but Patrice couldn't bear to go down any of those paths just yet.

"No." Sabina curled up on the couch and wrapped an arm around Porcelain when she jumped up next to her. "I went with Nathalie the day after you left, but Alex hasn't said anything about it." She rested her head on Porcelain's shoulder. "The only reason I know is because I saw some lash marks on her back..."

Patrice closed her eyes, pressing her free hand to her forehead. "Thank you Sabina, let me make some calls. I'll call you back. Don't worry, ok?" The last comment was forced, but the blonde hoped Sabina couldn't tell.

"Yeah. I'll be here." Sabina hung up and turned her face into Porcelain, trying to stop thinking about all of the things that could have happened to Alex.

Patrice ended her call with Sabina and dropped her hand back away from the lamp, staring into the inky blackness of her hotel room. It was far from daylight outside, and only the glow of downtown edged around the standard issue drapes covering the wall of windows to her left. There was really only one person to call, one person she would always trust and who might take her call at five am. She dialed quickly, placing the phone to her ear, and looking at her shadowy reflection in the television set facing her.

Donna reached for her watch on the nightstand at she grabbed her phone. The number on the caller id was the only reason that she answered. "Patrice? What's wrong?" She knew if Patrice was waking her up then there was a good reason for it.

Even though she knew Donna was surprised, Patrice couldn't help but feel comforted at how quickly the woman could sound in control. She took a breath, puling the sheet up higher, "Donna, I'm sorry to call so early, but I'm in Seattle and I just need to know if you've seen Alex. Sabina called and said she didn't come home last night." She tried to collect her thoughts, "I heard she's been at the club...and....I just need to know that she's alright." The guilt was creeping up on her, and the blonde hoped she didn't sound as shaken as she did to herself.

Sighing, Donna turned on her bedside lamp. "I think I saw her there, yes." She hadn't been there for too long herself, but she was almost certain that she saw Alex in the lounge at one point.

"Was she..." Patrice lowered her voice; she couldn't bring herself to ask the next question that came to mind, "...how was she?" Patrice knew it was only a matter of time before Donna saw through her, but she was trying her best.

Donna got out of bed and pulled on a robe. "She seemed fine last night, but..." She sighed. "She's been at the club almost every night that you've been in Seattle. She came to me one of the first nights, but she's avoided me since then."

Well, that might explain the marks. Patrice knew she should tell Donna the real story, and it wouldn't take much for the older woman to get the picture, "Donna...I got offered a job here. I told Alex I was considering it. It's an amazing offer."

"Alex told me." Donna wondered if Alex had let Patrice know about just how much it bothered her. "Is it going to be worth the trade offs?" There was no point in beating around the bush.

Patrice sighed on the other end of the line audibly. "I...I was hoping to work something out....but.." She sighed again. She had always had a habit of wanting to jump at things, at chances like she'd never get another opportunity. But now things were different, her life was intertwined with others, and Donna wouldn't let her get too far from reality.

"But..?" Donna couldn't help but think back to the day she had decided to leave California. She hadn't thought about whether it was worth it or not. She had been scared and she had run away as quickly as she could. "Are you prepared to lose everything you have in New York for a job? It's just work Patrice."

Those were words she never thought she'd hear Donna say, and Patrice didn't take them lightly. The blonde paused, tightening her fingers around one of her shins, resting her chin on her knees, "No." The answer was simple, but she knew better than to give Donna a less than direct reply.

"Then I would suggest that you think long and hard before you decide to move to Seattle. I should have thought more before I moved to D.C. I don't want you to make the same mistake." Donna knew that she couldn't make the decision for Patrice. That was something that she would have to do for herself. "Was there anything else?"

Patrice let the silence hang for a moment, thinking, already knowing that Donna was right. Still, hearing the older woman speak so authoritatively, so personally, was giving the advice even more weight. "No Donna... Just though, if you see Alex would you tell her to call me?" She tugged at a strand of her hair, adding more quietly, "And that I miss her?" She was almost embarrassed at how small her voice sounded, "Thank you Donna, I'll let you get back to sleep. I think I have another phone call to make."

"I'll tell her if I see her, though if I were you, I would find a way to tell her myself." Donna ran a hand through her hair and checked the time again. There wasn't much point in going back to sleep now. "I hope I helped." She hung up and headed toward the bathroom and a scalding hot shower.

Patrice put the phone down and stared blankly around the room for a long moment. Donna was right, as usual, and the blonde found herself unable to even entertain the thought of returning to sleep.

Chapter Text

It was earlier than usual when Alex left work, so she had found herself in an elevator full of people leaving as they normally did. Home, however, was empty. She knew Sabina would be finishing with her last class that day, and she knew, when she changed quickly, that she would just miss her. Alex didn't check her phone, didn't want to see what might or might not be there--she wasn't sure which would be worse. She left it at home, sitting in her briefcase, but she didn't remember that until she mechanically smiled at the doorman and took out her keycard for the elevator to the club.

It was easier not to think about any of it, even though she mentally replayed her last conversation with Patrice over and over softly in the back of her mind. If she held onto everything she had to lose, it might slip away anyway, and as Alex walked into the lounge, she flexed her fingers almost as if she could feel it doing just that. She looked around, hoping neither Liz nor Donna would be there that night.

Selena threaded her fingers through Dani's hair quietly, just starting to relax after her week. A few contracts had been signed, financing arranged, and she'd cleared her night for the express purpose of having no plans. Her dark eyes followed Alex as she walked in, notably alone as she had been earlier that week. Though, at that time Selena hadn't noticed much else, that night Samantha had been there and she had been otherwise occupied.

She watched thoughtfully, studying the elegant blonde's expression. It was tinged with quiet strength that was eroding, replacing itself with needs, for security...most likely, distraction...definitely. Selena quietly turned to the girl at her feet and spoke, her voice deep and almost lyrical, simple words finding intrigue under her accent, "That blonde woman there...offer her a seat with us for the night." She brushed back a lock of dark hair and shifted back while the girl got up and moved through the crowd. Her offer might be declined, but she didn't find that likely.

There was a time when Alex would have had a name to put with the face of the slave that approached her, but it didn't really matter then. She followed the girl's glance as she listened to the offer. Selena. Alex knew her in passing, even though they had been members for roughly the same amount of time. It was impossible to know everyone but possible to know something--a face, name, a connection or a reputation. And it was reputation that stood out the most to Alex was she gazed past the slave to Selena and absently sipped her drink.

Making up her mind only took half a moment and a glance to really make sure that neither Liz nor Donna was in the room. It was silly, but Alex could not help the habit. Without a word, she crossed the room, the slave trailing behind, and dropped elegantly to the seat beside Selena. "Thank you for the offer," she murmured. And Alex did hope that it was an offer or at least, a prelude to one.

Selena nodded, letting her eyes trail over Alex's form, noting her dress, demeanor. "You're welcome." She stopped Dani before she could kneel again, "Thank you. I think we'll be fine for tonight." When the girl's face fell slightly she added, "I will let Brynn you were well behaved." As the girl nodded thankfully and moved back into the crowd, Selena looked back to Alex, not bothering with much small talk, "You're looking for something tonight." It was a statement more than a question, and the brunette just waited for a reply.

After drawing in deep breath, Alex simply sipped her drink calmly. She was, and apparently it showed more than she realized. But that really didn't matter. She felt cut off from the day as the night before stood out in her mind, but the memories were neither crisp nor satisfying. She needed something more, something to counter the hurt of things unspoken and push away her rising fears. "A scene," she said flatly. Alex looked up into Selena's dark eyes, detaching herself from the woman's beauty and trying to find her hardness.

Selena nodded, having expected the answer. She wasn't one to deny such a request, even when she knew it had little, if anything to do with herself. The brunette put down her glass and fixed Alex with a stare, "I suppose you know what you ask for? I'm not in the practice of taking requests." Selena's scenes followed common threads, and they weren't asked for by the ambivalent.

Alex had heard enough, but she didn't dig for the memories of details. She simply nodded her reply, her consent, such as it was. What Selena did with her was of no consequence in its nature. She simply put down her drink and slid to her knees, ignoring the rest of the room.

Selena shook her head quietly, almost imperceptibly as she pulled Alex a few inches closer and started to take down her hair. "Your safeword?"

It had been a long time since Alex used her safeword, and once she returned to the city, she changed it, wanting to start again, to let the past be the past. She stretched her neck, letting her hair fall around her shoulders. And as she leaned in, whispering it, her lips brushed against Selena's ear until she withdrew again, lowering her eyes.

Selena memorized the word, pondering the woman's choice for only a second. "Yes, you may go prepare." The brunette stood and went to see Brynn, she liked to set her own scenes rather than having her sub do it themselves. She found it was more dramatic that way. Alex hesitated for only a moment before standing. She had never been given only such a simple instruction, and she felt like a novice again for half a moment. But she found herself quickly and left the room, going to her own rooms to undress. Alex did not linger there long. She hesitated, however, in thinking to ask for one of the generic collars that house slaves for the club wore. In the end, she returned to the lounge with her neck bare.

Selena stood to the side of the stage, watching Alex return. The lack of collar didn't bother her, and she didn't ask for one for the blonde. Alex wasn't a pet, nor did she belong to her. Selena was serving a simple purpose, and she knew it, though she wouldn't keep herself from enjoying it all the same.

The stage had been prepared, and the brunette motioned to two slaves to take Alex and tie her, intercepting her mid-way across the room. To the second slave she handed the silk scarf she had been wearing around her neck, making it clear what it was for.

While she submitted calmly, readily, to being tied, Alex felt her heart begin to race at the feel of the silk, at the deprivation of sense. She swallowed, still holding her head high. That Selena conducted her scenes so publicly had not influenced Alex's choice, but she could not help that it would influence her behavior. Her instincts told her to be calm, to take what she was given, and to break, if she must break, elegantly. But that was not the way of every scene, and more than the casual observer could see that Alex was frayed.

Watching, Selena studied the woman's movements as she was readied. She had seen Alex do scenes in public before, but it had been quite some time since she had been on the receiving end, and it showed in the details. The brunette stepped up quietly behind Alex, brushing a thin bamboo cane, the only implement she ever used in public, slowly up the blonde's bare legs. Alex visibly flinched as she leaned in to whisper softy in her ear, "You're beautiful. Don't let your pride control you. That's what you asked me to do."

Selena's hot breath made Alex shiver, almost violently when she realized what the cane was. She straightened her back and lifted her chin, her cheeks flaring pink at the brunette's words. She was letting anger control her, anger and grief at what she might lose, what she stood to lose. But Alex used her pride to cover what she could and to push. She wanted to push.

Selena knew Alex understood what was going to happen, and she stepped away and nodded briefly at her growing audience, sliding her fingers over the smooth surface of the bamboo, pausing at each joint, finding its balance before taking aim for the first time. The thin rod made a satisfying swish through the air, flexing slightly, and landing against the blonde's buttocks with a firm snap. Selena pulled her arm back and moved in again, the cane vibrating slightly in her hand from the force of the first blow.

Alex had been whipped. flogged... She preferred those kinds of punishments and found comfort in them. But this was different; this was alien to her, and her cry was strangled as she tried to bite it back. The sting bit into her skin, and she could still hear the swish of the cane in the air echoing in her ears, but Alex straightened, lifted her chin again so that she would be looking down on anyone were her eyes not covered.

Selena searched the outburst for Alex's safeword, but didn't hear it. She brought the cane down two more times in succession, adding perfect lines in red to the blonde's perfect skin. Then she paused and considered the moment, glancing at the audience to enjoy their attentive stare. The brunette stalked behind Alex, watching the blonde's muscles tighten in anticipation before swinging again, taking aim for the backs of the woman's thighs.

The moment's wait made it hurt all the more, but Alex's cry was obviously in anger, anger that she flinched, that she knew her composure was slipping. She shut her eyes tightly against the silk, willing herself not to cry. She could take more, and she had no intention of going home to an empty bed so soon.

Selena registered the noise and immediately struck Alex again, this time with full-force, letting go of any reserve she had been holding onto. She didn't stop, raising a string of perfect welts on the blonde's shoulders and bottom. When she reached the base of Alex's neck she stepped in, tucking the cane under her arm and ran her fingers down the stripes, slowly, feeling each of them. She waited, listening.

Alex gritted her teeth, her own breathing filling her ears to wash away the sound of her own cries. She waited, tensing under Selena's fingers, eyes still tightly closed against the pain. She did not trust herself to open her mouth.

Selena could sense Alex was near her breaking point and stepped away one more time, this time bringing the rattan down in precise strokes, moving over the blonde's body, down her legs, and then snapping it across the already abused skin on her shoulders, just enough lighter as to not break the first set of welts. The brunette was quietly impressed at Alex's strength as it crumbled, and out of the corner of her eye she could see her audience, some with wide-eyed pets, and some with silent tears running over their features. She doubted if anyone else would ask for the stage tonight, they usually didn't after one of her scenes.

Liz and Therese had been sharing a drink in Therese's rooms when Alex had first arrived at the club and it was only when Jonas joined them that she found out that Alex was being caned in one of the main rooms. She could only shake her head as she shared a look with Therese and excused herself. Just because Alex wasn't her pet anymore, didn't mean that she didn't care about her, or that she wouldn't step in if she thought Alex was taking it too far. She slipped into the back of the room to see what was going on for herself.

Finally, Alex didn't think she could stand one more stripe. "Fate," she gasped, the word falling from her tongue before she could stop herself. She gritted her teeth on its heels, vowing not to say it again, angry at herself for failing to endure anything more. She was flushed and her chest heaving, but she did not cry.

Selena had been expecting the word and stopped her movement mid-swing, quietly tucking the cane back under her arm, and going to Alex. "It's ok...shh..." The brunette gently whispered to Alex as she reached to untie the blindfold, placing a comforting hand on her cheek as she did so, helping to block out the rest of the room.

She shuddered but pushed into the touch even as she was pulling lightly at her bonds. Alex wanted to be taken from he stage, wanted to be in private. She straightened herself and calmed, trying to show that she could continue elsewhere, that she was fit enough for the night, despite the pain at every breath.

Selena paused and placed her fingers on Alex's chin, looking her in the eye, "I'm finished here. Would you like to continue elsewhere?" She wouldn't be opposed to either answer; the brunette didn't know Alex well enough to assume she wanted more than the scene that had just concluded.

Liz slipped down a side hallway, trying to remember just where Selena's rooms were where she could intercept them. She had no doubt that Alex would want to go back to Selena's rooms and she knew exactly what would happen once she was there. Generally, she wouldn't interfere with Alex's choices, assuming that whatever happened between her and Patrice was their business, but a call earlier from Donna made her suspect that Alex didn't really know what she was doing or what she might be throwing away.

"Yes..." It came out as a whisper, and Alex swallowed. "Yes, I would," she said, finding her voice. She pushed thoughts of Patrice away and blinked in the light of the room as if seeing it for the first time. It wouldn't matter; it didn't matter. She had no idea when Patrice was coming, and she was almost sure now that the return would only be to pack. Alex let that push her feet forward.

Selena nodded, seeing Alex still conflicted but determined. She reached and untied the blonde, catching her as she regained balance enough to walk. The crowd parted, slowly recovering and going on with their nights as Selena led Alex toward her rooms. She felt little apprehension in taking her in for the rest of the night, the brunette knowing she was leading only in form, not substance.

As they rounded a corner, Liz straightened. She had been leaning against the wall, waiting for them, and now she firmly put herself in their path. "Selena," She nodded in an almost perfunctory manner, but she didn't address Alex at all.

The brunette stopped, nodding to the older woman differentially. "Liz, good evening." Selena was enough of a regular to know Liz Donnelly, and to know to show honest respect. She also knew enough to not be surprised that the blonde might take an interest in her former pet's behavior. Selena quietly laced her fingers together behind her back, letting Liz continue uninterrupted.

Liz had no desire to insult Selena, but it was far more important to her to get Alex alone. She smiled tightly. "Might I borrow Alex for a bit?"

At first, Liz's presence didn't really register to Alex; she didn't bother to work out that there would be nothing coincidental about Liz being in that particular hallway. But when she heard that, she looked up sharply, glaring at Liz from behind Selena.

Selena inclined her head and stepped to the side. Liz's tone was not possessive or angered, and the brunette knew she would have no reason for either. While she was anticipating some time behind closed doors with the blonde, and was already wanting from the scene, she had no claim to Alex to refuse Liz her request. "Of course."

Liz didn't bother asking Alex for her opinion on the matter. She ignored Alex's glare and grabbed her upper arm, pulling her further down the hallway.

Selena watched them, noting the annoyance and lingering anger in the taller blonde's features. She shifted, momentarily tempted to have one of the house slaves sent to her room to release her need that had built during the evening. However, the thought was only passing, and she knew already what she would really do. The brunette turned back down the hallway toward the exit. Samantha was due in from her trip to Tokyo in a matter of hours, and Selena would be waiting for her at the foot of their bed, in her favorite attire, still wanting.

Alex turned in time to see Selena disappear around a corner. She whipped around and glared at Liz again, pulling her arm away. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Keeping you from making a stupid mistake. What the hell do you think that you're doing?" Seeing Selena walking off, she drug Alex into her room.

"It's none of your concern," Alex said, quickly becoming sullen. She hadn't gone to Liz; she hadn't wanted to go to Liz for this reason because Liz so easily made her see sense.

"It's my concern when you act like an idiot. Does Patrice even know that you're here?" She pushed Alex face down on her bed and hoped that she would stay there.

"Patrice is in Seattle," Alex said, voice muffled by the covers. She waited a moment before pushing herself up, her cheeks read and her arms shaking. She didn't feel the need to say anything else, and she had made up her mind to go.

After getting a jar of salve, Liz returned and pushed Alex back down. It was distressingly easy. "I know that Patrice is in Seattle. I'm also almost positive that she has her cellphone with her." She started rubbing the salve into Alex's back. "So what's really going on?"

"I don't want your help, Liz," Alex halfheartedly snapped. In truth, she wanted the relief from the pain, but she wasn't sure she was ready to pay the price of having to talk about it.

Liz's hands were softer than her tone. "There were any number of other places you could have gone and gotten exactly the same thing. There was no reason for you to come here." Unless she wanted someone to stop her, of course. "What are you thinking? Why are you so willing to throw away your relationship with Patrice?"

"I'm not the one throwing it away," Alex snapped, flinching under the touch. If Liz only knew...if she only knew everything that Alex and Patrice stood to lose. And what was worse was that Alex couldn't justify telling Patrice not to take it when she would stop and consider it herself.

"So tell me what's going on." Liz brushed her fingers through Alex's hair, then went back to tending to her thighs. "The only thing I know is that you've come here every night this week and that the scenes just keep getting more and more painful. Something's obviously going on and you're blaming yourself, otherwise you wouldn't be subjecting yourself to these punishments." Liz had known Alex for too long to be fooled.

"Patrice was offered a job in Seattle," Alex said resentfully as she jerked at Liz's touch. She didn't think she needed to explain beyond that, but she forced the words out, making them ever more real. "She's considering it."

Liz sighed. "Have you told her that you don't want her to take it?" She kept rubbing Alex's back, trying to get her to let go of some of the tension there.

"Can't tell her that..." In spite of herself, Alex pressed into Liz's hands, trying to take some comfort in the touch.

"Why not?" Liz went back to running her fingers through Alex's hair, unwilling to do anything more than comfort her.

"Liz..." Alex finally forced herself to sit up. She shook her head, energy for any anger gone. "I can't. I can't do this."

"All right." Liz squeezed Alex's shoulder. "But you need to go home, and you need to talk to Patrice."

"I'd rather stay here." Alex raised her chin in one last effort to hold out.

"Alex..." Liz's voice held a note of warning.

She sighed, knowing that that battle was lost before she really started waging it. Alex would go back to her rooms and dress carefully. Then she would go home. Then, she would debate calling Patrice until she finally hit the button. "Goodnight, Liz," Alex said quietly as she stood. She wasn't ready to thank her just yet, but Liz would understand that.

Liz nodded. "Good night." She stood to follow Alex out, fully intending to go back to her night with Therese and Jonas.

Chapter Text

Alex took one of the service exits out. She didn't want anyone else to see her that night, and without returning to Selena's rooms, she was sure the woman was gone. Liz had...she shook her head as she got in her car. There was no sense in going over any of it again and again in her mind. The bruises and welts stung as she drove, and she pressed back into the seat, making the feeling last, almost afraid it would fade all too quickly. If she became numb again, she wasn't sure she could come back from it. Patrice had helped her feel more acutely than she had since returning to the city, and the impending loss that continued to creep upon her was threatening to overwhelm any physical pain.

 

She barely remembered getting home, parking in her spot. The lights in the hallway were too bright as she slid her key into the lock and opened her door. Alex was at a loss.

Patrice whipped around from her place on the couch when she heard the key in the door. The flight had been longer than she could remember, and when she walked in and heard Alex's cell ringing in her briefcase, she understood why her calls had gone unanswered. The place had been vacant when she arrived, and it seemed to echo as she walked through it, dogs following her. The blonde jumped up when the door opened, and felt her eyes sting when she glimpsed Alex's forlorn expression.

"Patrice..." Surprised registered on Alex's face but slowly. And it was quickly overcome by something else--tiredness, the want for relief but a hesitation. She was unsure; she didn't move. The pain of her welts was dull and thudding with each heartbeat.

Patrice stopped a few feet from Alex. There were so many things to say, to ask, to put to rest, but the blonde didn't care about them at the moment. She already knew she'd made the right choice, the rest could be fixed in time. She shrugged and tried for a small smile, "I couldn't do it."

When Alex opened her mouth to speak, she found she couldn't force a sound out as her throat tightened. Brows knitted together and forehead tensing, tears began to fall freely from her eyes. She couldn't stop them; she didn't want to stop them. Soon, she found herself gasping for breath as she began to sob.

Patrice immediately took Alex into her arms, lightening her grip when the other blonde whimpered. That she had never seen Alex so fully let go didn't even register, and she kissed her neck, her cheek, whispering, "Shhh...It's ok, I love you..." Patrice helped Alex out of her coat and started walking them toward the bedroom.

"Love...you..." Alex managed to gasp as she simply let Patrice lead her. The pain was no longer registering as real, and her tension began to melt away, but she couldn't stop the tears, and she pulled Patrice closer as they curled up on the bed. Alex could see the blonde's suitcase there, still packed and with the tag on it, and she had to remind herself that this was real, that the warmth, the fullness of Patrice in her arms was not a wish she had wasted.

Patrice ran her fingers through Alex's hair, working out a few tangles as she went. She started to undress the other blonde quietly, only slightly apprehensive of what she might find concealed. She had a good idea of where Alex had been spending her time, but her reaction was more guilt than jealousy. Alex didn't go out alone seeking pleasure.

"I'm sorry," Alex said quietly as she began to calm, her chest still heaving lightly. She looked up at Patrice through reddened eyes and gently pushed a strand of the blonde's hair off of her forehead. She wasn't sure which she was apologizing for--doubting, assuming, behaving childishly, recklessly--but she needed to say the words. And she was seized by the desire for more contact, for the completely reality of the situation. "I'm sorry," she was still murmuring as she pulled Patrice into a kiss.

Immediately, Patrice returned the kiss, then leaned back only slightly, letting their lips brush as she whispered again, "Stop. You don't need to apologize." Patrice pulled off the other blonde's shirt carefully, taking in a quick breath at the marks that had already started to bruise. She could only imagine what Alex had put herself through that night. Patrice shifted, pulling the other blonde over her so she wouldn't lie on her back. They kissed again, "I'm sorry Alex."

Finally, she relaxed fully into Patrice, and as the kiss broke, Alex pressed her stained cheek to Patrice's, silently telling her that she needn't apologize either, that it was over and forgotten. She pressed a hand underneath Patrice's shirt, feeling her skin. "You're home..."

'Yes," Patrice took a slightly shaky breath, smiling up at Alex, "I'm home."

She finally smiled, relief washing over her face. Alex began to unbutton Patrice's shirt and pushed it open, happy to feel the blonde's skin against her own again. "I'm glad...I'm..." Relieved. Happy. A thousand other words came to mind, but Alex was too overwhelmed to voice them.

Patrice pulled Alex down against her again and kissed her. She didn't need the other blonde to explain anything, "Mmmn...me too."

"Just..." Alex kissed Patrice's neck, then her jaw, then her lips and back down again, unsure where to settle, unsure what to do with her hands. "Need you..."

Patrice's breath caught at Alex's almost greedy movements, and arched off the bed to catch her and lay a few kisses of her own while she unfastened the blonde's bra and tossed it onto the floor. "I'm here now," She smiled, "I belong here." Patrice felt a few more tears rise up when she said it, not sure she'd ever been sure of such a thing before.

Alex was pulling Patrice's shirt off, but she paused upon hearing the words, letting them hang in the air. Then she began again, ridding Patrice of her shirt, her bra and pulling at her pants almost in desperation. She had been stupid, childish, but she could make up for that later. She could reconcile it later. Patrice was underneath her, waiting, wanting, and Alex had nearly gone to bed with a near stranger. She pushed the thoughts of of her mind and pressed her hands up Patrice's sides, to her breasts. A soft smile came to her face. "Welcome home."

Patrice's smile was genuine even as a few tears rolled down her cheeks. She helped Alex pull off her clothes, and then returned the favor. The blonde dragged her palms lightly up Alex's sides, and tangled them in the other woman's hair. Despite all the worry, the highs and lows of the last week, she couldn't remember feeling more relieved, more sure of herself. Alex drew in a shuddering breath, barely concealing a soft moan. She pressed her hips down into Patrice as she dipped her head, taking one of Patrice's nipples and rolling her tongue over it. She was coming back to herself, remembering herself, and everything else melted simply into want. Patrice groaned in anticipation and slid her thigh between Alex's feeling her already wet against her skin. She moved her hands to pull Alex closer, and started rocking their bodies slowly together.

The pressure was more welcome than any blow Alex had felt in the past week, and she pressed into Patrice even more readily. Warmth, desire filled her center, but she forced herself to take her time, kissing Patrice's chest, rolling her other nipple between her fingers before pressing her hand down, between their legs. When she felt Patrice's warmth, her wetness on her fingertips, she moaned desperately.

Patrice caught Alex's hair again, kissing her almost forcefully. "Alex, please..." Patrice was biting her lip, knowing she wouldn't be able to hold off much longer.

Her breath hitched in her throat as she slid her fingers into Patrice. Alex wanted to taste her, but there would be time. She also wanted to stay close, to look into Patrice's bright eyes. As she pressed her thumb to Patrice's clit, making slow circles she leaned in for a soft kiss. Patrice moaned and shifted under Alex to give her better access, meeting the kiss slowly, exploring the other blonde's mouth with her own. The last week was fading, and everything outside of that moment seemed eerily unimportant.

Alex began to thrust faster, with more intent. She was suddenly solely focused on making Patrice come, on pushing her to her release, on needing more than anything to be part of that moment.

Patrice finally let herself go, and pressed her head back against the pillows as she shuddered, tightening around Alex's fingers. "God...Alex....mmmnn..." She was incoherent for a few long moments, then pulled Alex into her arms again as she felt the rest of her mind let go and tears start to run down her cheeks in earnest.

Snuggling close, Alex pressed her cheek to Patrice, her own tears returning but with less violence. She wiped Patrice's other cheek with her thumb before tangling her hand in the blonde's hair, pressing close to her. "It's okay...we're okay."

"We are..." Patrice breathed the words, and started quietly tracing her fingertips over Alex again, completely content and almost blissfully happy at the prospect of the rest of the night.

*****

Patrice woke the next morning to daylight already streaming through the curtains, and a pleasantly familiar weight on her chest. Alex's hair was tickling her neck, and she caressed the other blonde's cheek lightly as she dozed. She smiled at the previous day and night, deciding not to look back any further, it just didn't' seem important. What was important, however, was she was thirsty from flying. Patrice quietly shifted from under Alex and got out of bed, eyes smiling when she saw the state of the room- her discarded suitcase, their clothes thrown over the carpet. She opened the door carefully as not to wake Alex, though her plans were foiled when she tripped over Sabina who was still sleeping outside their room. Patrice swore loudly in surprise as she stumbled, trying to regain her balance. Sabina grunted awake at the feeling of something sharp hitting her in the ribs and stealing her breath. She bolted upright, trying to clear her head and figure out just what was going on. On hearing the noise, Porcelain and Persia only added to chaos by coming to investigate.

At the sound and its volume, Alex sat up, blinked, completely dazed. It was much later than she normally rose, and she hadn't actually been in their bed in a night or so. "Wha..."

Patrice caught herself against the wall, only to jump again when Persia nearly knocked her legs out from under her. Finally, she laughed, seeing the confused look on Sabina's face, and the imprint of the carpet on her skin. Patrice shook her head slowly and pulled the girl over, holding her for a moment before kissing her. "You were out here all night?"

"Huh?" Sabina blinked in confusion. "Is it morning?" That part of the hallway didn't get much natural light, so she had no way to tell the time. "I didn't mean to fall asleep." She wrapped her arms around Patrice, hugging her tightly.

Patrice kissed the brunette again, and started pulling her into the bedroom, "It is, definitely." When she caught Alex's eye she smiled, and half lifted, half pushed Sabina onto the bed next to her. "And I think we could all use some breakfast." Patrice kissed Alex quickly and went to order something completely indulgent.

Alex stretched, a smile spreading across her face even as she felt the pain in her back return. It didn't matter just then. She had everything the needed, and she wasn't about to wake from a dream. She rested her hand on Porcelain's head before getting out of bed and pulling on a t-shirt. "Good morning," she said to Sabina, kissing her lightly as she followed after Patrice.

Sabina wasn't sure if she should stay where Patrice put her or follow Alex, but the bed was soft and warm where the floor in the hallway certainly hadn't been. She snuggled further into the blankets, wrapping her arms around Alex's pillow and wait either for Alex and Patrice to return or to call her to join them.

Chapter Text

The cookies that Nathalie had tried to bake were completely burnt, and she almost broke the spatula trying to get them off of the pan. She sighed and leaned against the counter, breathing in deeply to see if the smell was really still there even though she had opened the windows half an hour before. Sabina was going to make fun of her...especially if she found out the cookies had totally been from a package where they were already cut into little circles. She wasn't sure what had gotten into her. It was probably Sabina talking about cooking with her family and with Patrice. Nathalie had to guess that she was doomed to be like Alex--helpless with anything beyond making a salad. And she hadn't told Sabina that the one thing she really shared with her parents like that was learning how to make her mother's martinis just how she liked them. But getting the cookies off of the pan was proving absolutely impossible, and naturally she had had to buzz Sabina into the building before she was finished. The door was unlocked, and she didn't want the brunette walking in on her trying to muscle burnt dough off of a pan, but Nathalie couldn't simply let it sit there on the counter.

Sabina pushed the door open, her nose wrinkling at the smell of burnt sugar. "Nathalie?" She headed toward the kitchen when she didn't immediately see the other woman. "Is everything okay?"

"It's fine...really...it's okay." Nathalie came out of the small pantry, where she simply left the pan on top of the trash can, though it pained her to do so. She tried to smile and act totally calm. "Hi."

"Hi." Sabina looked at Nathalie skeptically. "Is there some reason it smells like a fire in here?" There was always a chance that one of Nathalie's roommates was responsible, but with the way that Nathalie was emphasizing how okay everything was, she didn't think it was likely.

"I may have just..." Nathalie was taking Sabina's arm and leading her out of the kitchen, back to her bedroom. "Well, it doesn't matter. There wasn't a fire." Thank God. She could just imagine the whole building burning down and it being her fault. That was not what she needed right before summer school.

"Okay," Sabina looked back toward the kitchen, but she let Nathalie pull her away. Once they got to the bedroom, Sabina stopped and dragged Nathalie into her arms. "You know, a kiss might make you feel better about whatever it is that you've done."

Nathalie furrowed her brow, distracted by the absolute wrong part of that statement. "Why do you think I've done something? I haven't...really..." She leaned back a little to look at Sabina full on.

"Well, you're acting like everything is perfectly fine and you're pulling me away from the kitchen as quickly as you can..." Sabina shrugged. "I just assumed that there was something in there that you didn't want me to see, probably something you've burnt, and you're all agitated about it. Knowing you, it's probably nothing important, or you'd be more upset instead of trying to pretend that it isn't there, whatever 'it' is."

"It was cookies, okay?" Nathalie blurted, as if cracking under an interrogation.

"Okay." Sabina leaned in and kissed Nathalie. "So you burnt some cookies? Everyone burns something eventually." She shrugged again.

Nathalie blinked, as if that had never occurred to her. She cocked her head to think about it for a moment, but caught herself and shook it off. "So...what was it that you wanted to tell me that you couldn't tell me over the phone?"

"Oh, right." In the wake of the not-so-terrible-cookie-disaster Sabina had temporarily forgotten just why she had come over. She let go of Nathalie and sat on her bed. "There's a masquerade at the club every year and Patrice and Alex wanted to know if you wanted to go with us."

"Oh..." Nathalie blinked again and sat down. She had seen the invitation, and she was sure every member had gotten one. But she had recycled it thinking that it would be ridiculous to consider going. "That's...wow, that's really nice of them. I don't know."

Sabina smiled slightly. "Someone told them about the last time we went to the club together, probably Liz or Donna." She gave Nathalie a minute to remember just what that visit had entailed. "And Patrice seems to think that having us both on the end of a leash, or something, would be nice statement." She didn't have any idea about what sort of costumes Patrice might have in mind, but she was hoping that it wouldn't involve anything remotely canine.

Biting her lip, Nathalie thought back to the night a couple of weeks before. She had gotten a little more comfortable in public at the club, though she was pretty sure she had still been blushing furiously even when she pushed Sabina's head between her legs in the lounge. Still, there had been a thrill in it, and she had even been collected enough to notice an absolutely gorgeous brunette lounging next to a blonde who looked so composed it was almost frightening. And in noticing them, Nathalie discovered that they were watching her and Sabina and that the brunette was smiling. "I think Donna might have been there," she murmured. "I'm not sure sure..." She did remember, however, being bold enough to send Sabina to the women with drinks and being thanked with the hinted offer of a scene in the future. "I...uhm...what night is it?" she asked, coming back to herself.

"It's on Saturday three weeks from now." The invitations always went out early to give everyone time to arrange their costumes. Sabina reached for Nathalie's hand. "I'd really like it if you'd come."

She bit her lip. It was hard to resist Sabina at all, especially when she looked like that. And Nathalie wanted to make her happy. But something inside of her still balked at going out with Patrice and Alex. They were just so...put together. She was intimidated by how much she wanted to be like them. "I know but...I don't know."

Sabina furrowed her brow. "Do you want to talk about it? We could go talk to Patrice and Alex..." She couldn't reassure Nathalie if she didn't know what was bothering her.

"What? No..." Nathalie shifted, crossing her legs. "I just...uhm..." She couldn't really think of anything she had to do that was absolutely pressing, so she lapsed into silence and started to pick the comforter.

Sabina shifted until she was straddling Nathalie's lap, forcing her to look at her. "What is it? Talk to me."

"I'm just..." She shrugged and looked away. "It's like...this thing seems like a big deal, and I just don't know if I should really go..."

Sabina frowned. "You got an invitation, didn't you? And Alex and Patrice wouldn't ask if they didn't want you to come." Sabina tilted Nathalie's face back up. "Please?"

"I just don't want it to be weird," she said quietly.

"Why would it be weird?"

"I don't know...it just...might be weird." Nathalie was becoming fully aware that she really didn't have any good excuses for not going. She knew she was going to have to just give it up, and she sighed. "They said they wanted me to come?"

Sabina nodded. "They did." She kissed Nathalie lightly. "I wouldn't have asked if I thought it would upset you. I just... I thought it would be nice if you came."

"I...well...okay..." She rested her forehead against Sabina's. The brunette had to go, so she knew she couldn't suggest they just order pizza and watch a movie. Nathalie doubted Sabina would pick that over the masquerade anyway. "I'll go."

"You don't have to." Sabina could tell that Nathalie was still reluctant. "I don't want you to spend the entire night nervous and worried. It's supposed to be fun."

"No...I want to...it's fine." She smiled. She had some time to reconcile herself to it, so that would make it all right. Until she saw Patrice and Alex probably. "I just hope they don't want to dress us as elephants or something."

Sabina smiled. "Yeah. I think Patrice might have some ideas, but she hasn't told me what they are." She pushed Nathalie back onto the bed. "Whatever it is, I'm sure it's going to be sexy."

The brunette laughed lightly and wrapped her legs around Sabina. "Shut up..." She was grinning even as she blushed.

Sabina raised her eyebrows and laughed. "Shut up?" She pressed down against Nathalie.

"Yeah..." Nathalie tangled her fingers in Sabina's hair and pulled her down into a kiss, illustrating.

Chapter Text

Therese curled her fingers around the railing as she looked over the great room from the mezzanine. The lights were low and almost eclipsed by morning pouring through the windowpanes. Ladders, drop cloths, and all other traces of the work that had closed the club—save the fitness center and the small bar downstairs—for two nights were now gone, and Therese was alone with the vast room opening to the darkness of the main hallway below her.

The transformation was fitting for that year's theme, and Therese did not have to look closely in the low light to know the details of the paintings surrounded in ornamental gold scrollwork that now covered the ceiling and the walls in flat panels. Graceful carved seats had been installed along the one long wall, and a chandelier that was both unmistakably Venetian and unmistakably new made pale rainbow patterns along it.

She began to descend the grand staircase, her mind on the men who might have painstakingly carved its banisters and now smooth handrails rather than the minute changes that had been made to the steps to make them better fit the scene. The room swept up above her, and when Therese stopped at the bottom, the sounds of her heels echoed on the patterned wood floor that had been carefully laid over the carpet.

Two large globes flanked it, and Therese rested her hand on one, feeling instinctively along the raised surface for Italy, for home. Her fingers traced the ornate lion—Venezia—before moving south to her island. There had never been anything quiet so grand there, and she could not remember a room so silent. The sound of her steps as she crossed to the hallway were louder than any memories of laughter.

Chapter Text

Sabina glanced through the peephole, making sure that it was Nathalie on the other side of the door before she opened it. She had once accidentally opened the door on a delivery guy while completely naked, thinking that it was Alex, and she never wanted to make that mistake again. She pulled the door open, almost bouncing on her toes. "Hi." The whole idea of the masquerade had her excited.

"Hey..." Nathalie forced a smile before leaning in to give Sabina a quick kiss. She couldn't help but look around to see that no one was in the small hallways with her--not that there would be because it was the penthouse. But Nathalie was nervous. She was fingering the hem of her dress as she stepped in, looking immediately for Alex and Patrice. It was...well, it was an honor to be asked, of course. But it was also so freaky. "So...yeah..."

Sabina closed the door, then reached out for Nathalie. "Yeah." She tried to make her smile more reassuring. "It's going to be okay." She could just tell that Nathalie was nervous. And if she was nervous all night, she was going to be miserable. Sabina didn't want that. "Alex isn't home yet, but Patrice has our costumes ready in the other room. I think she wants us to take a shower first though. The adhesive sticks better to clean skin."

"Adhesive..." Nathalie barely noticed Sabina ushering her into the bathroom and peeling her clothes off. She couldn't imagine why they would need adhesive. But Patrice was kind and had a gentle touch, so she knew to trust whatever was going to happen. Nathalie was halfway through washing her hair before she pulled her mind away from it. "It'll be...yeah..." It wasn't just going to the club with Alex and Patrice...it was that it was such a big night. Nathalie let out a long sigh as she began to wash Sabina's hair. "Just tell me we don't have to wear like...five inch heels or something..."

"I don't remember seeing anything like that." Sabina pressed into Nathalie's touch, then leaned in for a kiss. Patrice could come in at any moment, but she didn't let that bother her. Patrice had seen her do far more than just kiss someone, and that was the extent of her thought as she let her soap covered hands drift toward Nathalie's breasts.

Between the soothing, warm water and Sabina's touch, Nathalie sucked in a sharp breath. "God..." she sighed, leaning into the touch, letting her own hands drift over Sabina's skin.

"Mmm..." Sabina shifted closer to Nathalie and wrapped her arms around her, pressing one of her thighs between Nathalie's. It was easy to forget about everything outside of the warm spray of the shower.

Patrice had heard Sabina take Nathalie into the shower; however, it seemed to be taking quite some time and she was excited to see how her costumes for the girls would look. She had procured some paste that would come off easily from their skin with warm water, and she was hoping to have plenty of time to put the feathers around the edges of the small garments she had had made. She stood up and tried to wipe off the majority of the paste off her fingers as she went through to the bathroom to see how the girls were doing. Alex would be home soon, and she wanted to at least have chosen which color of feathers looked best on each girl. The steam was starting to fill the room as the blonde walked in, and she stopped a few feet away from the glass shower, crossing her arms amusedly. "Girls.....there will be plenty of time for that later I'm sure, but would you mind getting dried off soon? The event is tonight after all." She was smirking at the expression on Nathalie's face as she left the room.

Nathalie bit her lip and pulled away from Sabina, stepping out of the shower and snapping up a towel before the brunette could stop her. "I hope you're the one who gets punished for this...because it's your fault," she said as she handed Sabina another towel. There was a hint of humor in Nathalie voice, but her brow was lined with worry. It was so hard to tell sometimes if Patrice was actually kidding about things. And she was pretty sure that Alex was never kidding...ever.

"I don't think that we're going to get punished." Sabina smiled as she wrung the water from her hair, then wrapped the towel around herself. "Come on. Don't bother getting redressed. Patrice has everything."

Nathalie stopped completely as she was drying the back of her neck and stared at Sabina. She was half frozen with dread over what exactly Patrice had ready for them, and when she finally found it in her to move again and follow, she swallowed, trying to stomach the lump in her throat.

When the girls finally came in Patrice had to stop herself from smiling too delightedly. They were sweet together, and she was already anticipating how lovely the four of them would look that night. She knew Nathalie was nervous about going with them to the club, but after hearing quite an endearing account of the girls' trips on their own she was sure the brunette could handle herself well enough. Besides, she hadn't demanded the girl's presence; Nathalie had made the choice well enough on her own. When the towel-clad girls wandered in she pointed to the nude-colored lingerie on the bed. "Just put those on will you? Then I'll see how well this paste really works." She had briefly considered having them wearing only the feathers, but she would rather have the fun of undressing them at least a bit.

Sabina unselfconsciously dropped her towel and reached for the lingerie, easily pulling it on. She had half expected that she would spend the entire night in nothing but a mask and make-up, so the lingerie was an unexpected treat. "That's a lot of feathers." And they looked like very nice feathers.

Nathalie was just putting hers on when she heard the door open and Alex's footsteps, along with what she thought had to be the footsteps of the dogs. She only paused for a moment, though, not wanting to upset Patrice by taking too long. When Alex appeared at the doorway, leaning against the frame as she asked, "Can I help?" Nathalie blushed. It looked like Alex really had no intention of helping, but then again, she wasn't entirely sure Patrice was ready to let her.

Patrice smiled and crossed the room to kiss Alex in greeting. The other blonde had given her free rein to plan the costumes, but as much as Alex pretended not to care, she knew the woman was interested in looking their best for the night. "If you'd like I suppose, well, perhaps you have an opinion on what color for each?"

Alex smiled and walked over to admire the feathers. She tapped her fingernail on her lip as she looked at the array of colors, reaching down to finger a dark emerald feather. "These for Nathalie," she said as she arranged that feather with dark blue ones and brilliant red. "And..." She smiled as she looked up to Sabina and her eyes immediately went back to the pink and brown and pale gold feathers. "These for Sabina...I think the pink will compliment her skin." In truth, Alex knew Patrice had probably come to that conclusion quite a while before her.

"They're very pretty colors." Sabina smiled, liking the colors Alex had picked, though she was sure that she would have liked whatever Patrice had decided to do for her costume. She sat on a stool that Patrice had pulled into the room for just that purpose and tried to stay still as she started placing the feathers.

Sabina did the same, sitting and waiting her turn. She watched with interest as Patrice worked with Nathalie's costume, noting that Alex stepped away. She supposed that was the end of Alex's help. After a few minutes, her eyes wandered after Alex as the blonde began to take out what Nathalie assumed were the costumes she and Patrice would wear that night. She cocked her head and contented herself with trying to figure out what they were and how they fit together. They looked fairly simple, but she could tell that the fabric was delicately embroidered--probably by hand. It was so fascinating that she forgot she was staring, and when Alex caught her, she smiled, softly, blushing.

Patrice was pleased with how well the feathers were sticking to Sabina's skin, and placed them over the fabric and across the girl's back. She was far from covered, but it was just enough to hint at the idea. Content with the brunette's body for then, she pulled the girl's hair up and started pinning a few matching feathers in it as a final touch. She stepped back to admire her work and nodded, beckoning to the other girl. Patrice was sure there would be adjustments, additions eventually, but she wanted to get a start.

Nathalie marveled at the subtle transformation in Sabina as she stepped up to Patrice for her turn. "Wow," she whispered. The subtlety was stunning against Sabina's skin, and Nathalie was amazed that Patrice had made it come together so fluidly with simply starting from nothing. "So we're...supposed to be birds..." She cocked her head.

Shaking her head, Alex chuckled lightly and beckoned Sabina over. She began to applying bronzer lightly to the girl's skin, looking up now and then to watch Patrice.

Chuckling, Patrice started working on Nathalie, things going faster now that she had done it successfully once. "Yes, Alex and I thought it fitting, as well as pleasing." It took her longer to pull Nathalie's hair up, a few unruly layers having to be pinned separately. Eventually finishing with the brunette's feathers she motioned Sabina to kneel in the middle of the room and raised an eyebrow, hoping Nathalie wouldn't need to be told outright to join her. Patrice had thought a long time about what collars for the girls to wear, whether there should be new ones for the night. In the end she simply wanted to see Sabina still in the collar she and Alex had gotten for her, and had found one quite similar for Nathalie, though it lacked the monogram of course.

A soft smile came to Alex's face as she watched Nathalie kneel next to Sabina and sneak a moment to squeeze her hand, Alex thought, for her own reassurance. She went to Patrice and took her shoulders, pulling her against her chest as she looked over her shoulder at the girls. "They look beautiful," she murmured before kissing Patrice's neck softly. "And we should get ready."

Patrice nodded and quietly buckled the collars around the girls' necks, stroking Sabina's cheek before following Alex to where the blonde had their clothes hanging.

Sabina settled lighting onto the back of her thighs. It was going to be a long night and there was no sense in using all of her energy before they even left. She turned her head to look at Nathalie and smiled. She leaned in and whispered, "You look beautiful," before she snuck a quick kiss.

"So do you," Nathalie whispered, still a little awed.

Before Patrice could take her dress of her the hanger, Alex pulled her into her arms and smiled. She gave the blonde a lingering kiss before pulling back slightly to take her in. "This is the first time in a long time I've been excited for something like this," she said softly.

Chapter Text

When Alex stepped off of the elevator followed by Patrice and the girls, the entire club was transformed. The large double doors were opened, and the hallway looked as if it had been entirely rebuilt in marble. Small chandeliers lit it, and slaves--statues--lined it. Alex smiled--Therese did not disappoint. She took Patrice's hand and kissed it before putting it on her arm. "Ready?" she whispered, adjusting her mask one last time. There was a buzz from the great room, and it was growing loader as they walked towards it.

Patrice straightened and smiled back at Alex. The excitement of the patrons was palpable even from the corridor, and Patrice fingered the golden leads that she held in the hand not clasping Alex's. They were a light chain link, and overly long to serve any real purpose other than to complete the costume, though Patrice was enjoying the connection to both of the girls. They stepped into the great room and paused to look around, Patrice had never seen the club so full, or so festive, and it easily rivaled the holiday celebrations she had seen in Paris. She turned to Alex after taking a moment to absorb the atmosphere, "It's amazing."

And it was. At least, Nathalie had never seen anything so grand even when she was little and had thought nothing rivaled the big hotels in Paris. She found herself looking around, just short of gaping, at some of the costumes and the decorations. She knew she was forgetting her manners, but she hoped Alex and Patrice would be too distracted to notice. Alex, in fact, seemed to be the most taken by Patrice. Nathalie heard her murmur, "And you're the most stunning woman here." She reached for Sabina's hand and squeezed it excitedly, as if silently thanking the brunette for insisting that she come.

Sabina smiled at Nathalie and squeezed her hand back. She shifted in a way that was designed to fluff and rearrange her feathers and tried to focus on the things that would make the night more successful. It was hard to stop herself from trying to look at everything at once, but noticing who was there, the patterns of the people coming onto and off of the dance floor, the relocated bar, those thing were more important.

Patrice blushed and kissed Alex's cheek below her mask. She nodded to their left, "Donna's here already." The older woman was reclining on a couch to the side of the bar where she could see the room, Helene at her feet, "Perhaps we should go pay our respects?"

Nodding, Alex led them over through the crowd of costumed patrons and their slaves in various states of dress. She noted the wooden floor underneath their feet. There was nothing, she was convinced, that Therese couldn't do. She caught Donna's eye and the brunette nodded to them, the unassuming curves of her mask catching the light and suggesting the horns of Capricorn. It stood out against her high collared black cloak around her neck, spilling down the bench to where Helene knelt—a pretty sacrifice clad only in a pale gold material that revealed everything underneath it. Alex glanced behind her to see that the girls were following and paying attention, and she was pleased when they knelt in front of Patrice, next to where Helene was kneeling. "Good evening."

"Good evening." Donna waved to the bench, wordlessly inviting Patrice and Alex to sit if they liked. "You both look lovely, and you've got quite the aviary with you."

Patrice smiled and gathered her flowing skirt so she could sit carefully, crossing her legs before letting the fabric drape down onto the floor. "Thank you, and likewise." She carefully caressed Helene's cheek. "We were quite glad that they could both join us tonight." She was smiling at the matching brunettes, who were quite striking together, "Seeing as how they've become a bit of regulars it only seemed right that they enjoy tonight as well."

Alex merely leaned against the tall bench back, crossing on shining boot over the other as she stood over Patrice and smiled. Nathalie flicked her eyes up to Donna for only a moment. She was a little in awe of the women because of what she did with Lara...and that was before Nathalie had really told her about Donna's relationship to Patrice. "Therese wouldn't be too happy if everyone but her niece arrived," Alex said, chuckling lightly as she ran her fingers through Sabina's hair, carefully not to skew any of the feathers there.

Chuckling in return, Donna said, "No, I suppose she wouldn't." She trailed her fingers over Helene's neck. "So, just what are you supposed to be?" The girls were birds, which was easy enough, and Alex looked a bit like their keeper; however, Patrice's costume was less obvious.

Patrice smirked. "A companion." She had never been overly inspired by traditional costumes but enjoyed their collective appearance. The blonde looked over the crowd, then back to Donna, "It seems like everyone is here tonight." And she didn't even recognize half of them.

"Mmm, quite. I don't think I've every seen this many people here at once." Donna smiled. "Therese will be very pleased, not that you'll be able to tell." The smile turned into a smirk.

Alex licked her lips lightly as she scanned the room. She hadn't seen Liz yet, and that seemed odd. But she hadn't seen Therese either. Still, when she found the most imposing figure in the room, she would put all her money on it being the contessa. One figure stood out, however, and Alex found herself drawing in a deep breath. Selena. A simple mask graced her elegant face, and she appeared graceful and almost delicate in a corset that had been cinched tight. Her companion was turned away from Alex, and it was perhaps because of that that curiosity got the better of her. She straightened to better see, to determine if this was the fabled Samantha. And when the woman turned, her eyes went wide. The woman was holding her mask by a long handle, and before she raised it again to her face, Alex recognized her immediately—Samantha Kincaid. One of her older brothers had been part of her mother's social circle, and Alex remembered her vividly from a garden party that was given when she was younger. She forgot herself, dropping her responsibilities to the conversation as she watched the pair move across the room.

Patrice followed Alex's gaze but didn't recognize the women, though their strength was obvious. She almost expected to see a pet following after them, as she couldn't imagine either on their knees. But when she turned her attention back to the moment, she saw Donna's glass was running low and nodded to the girls, "I believe we would enjoy some drinks."

Sabina wordlessly stood and waited for Nathalie before she headed toward the bar. She couldn't stop herself from glancing to see who Alex was looking at and she smiled slightly when she recognized the women that Nathalie had made her take drinks to. She idly wondered if they might need some new drinks as well, and just how much trouble she would get in if she took it upon herself to refresh them before she returned to Alex and Patrice.

Nathalie walked close to Sabina, holding both of their chains, as Patrice had given them to her. Their hips brushed together, and despite all of the excitement—the slaves in costumes, the elaborate but small scenes that were taking place all throughout the room—that sent a distinct thrill down her spine. The bar that had been set up in the great room was crowded, and it worried her that it took longer than usual. "Does Alex know them?" she whispered, glancing back and taking in the two women as well as Patrice, Alex, and Donna.

"I don't know, but we're taking them drinks." Sabina had never seen either of them with Alex, but that didn't mean anything. The bartender put five drinks in front of her and she motioned for Nathalie to take Alex and Patrice's. She trusted that Nathalie would do her best to obey Alex and Patrice that night, but that didn't mean she trusted her serving skills when other people were involved. Nathalie didn't, after all, have much practice with it.

She saw the two women notice them as the crossed the room, and she looked down for a moment as she smiled to herself. Sabina liked the intrigue of the night, and she was glad to take more punishment to heighten it. As they got closer, she could hear the women speaking.

"It seems that a pair of pretty birds are bringing us drinks," Samantha said from behind her mask as she curled her fingers around Selena's hip. She was amused, smirking but almost privately at Therese's mischievous niece and her wide-eyed companion. It was certainly a change from the last time they had seen the two girls, but Samantha made it a point to find out just whom they were. And the connection to Alexandra Cabot made it all the more interesting.

Selena held her skirt and let Sam gently guide her through the crowd to meet the girls. "It does." She had noted Alex's entrance earlier in the night and was glad to see her back with her usual escort. She had enjoyed their scene but was quite glad to see her happy again. Selena had, of course, told Samantha about Alex; the blonde quite enjoyed hearing about the scene, and they didn't keep secrets from one another.

Sabina intercepted them and turned her eyes to the floor, hoping that Nathalie was doing the same. "With compliments from my mistresses." It was almost exactly the same thing she had said to them the last time they had met, and even if Alex and Patrice didn't know about the delivery, from what she had seen of their costumes as she made her way over, Sabina was sure that it wouldn't be a lie.

Selena smiled lightly as they took the glasses and brushed a hand over Sabina's shoulder. "We should like to thank them properly, yes?" She looked to Samantha, who she knew would be in agreement.

Samantha nodded before taking a light sip of her drink. She held out her hand for the girls' chains and resisted smiling as the brunette's jaw dropped. The girl handed them to her with no complaint, however, and she was sure their mistresses would be proud. "Come," she murmured to Selena, her matador's cape swishing as she turned to make their way to Alex and Patrice.

While Patrice and Donna chatted, Alex watched the entire little scene play out, knowing that Sabina somehow orchestrated it without, she hoped at least, knowing all of the facts. She straightened herself even more when Sam and Selena arrived, the birds trailing behind with their drinks, which she accepted as the girls knelt. "For a moment I thought they might have gotten lost," Alex said, throat a little dry.

Selena smiled and stroked Nathalie's head. "No, it seems they are quite too well trained for that." She noted Alex's slight shifting and extended her hand as the woman next to her began the introductions. "Selena Duran, and this is Samantha Kincaid." She knew Patrice from sight, but had never been formally introduced.

"Patrice LaRue, I hope you're enjoying your night?" Patrice smiled in return and clasped the offered hand lightly.

Sabina tucked the names away. Samantha's, at least, sounded familiar and she wanted to remember it for a future Internet search. Above her, Donna was shaking Selena's hand and introducing herself.

"We are," Samantha replied, smiling. She would not be surprised if Alex had not told Patrice the full extent of her scene with Selena, if any of it. But she was not one to judge the workings of someone else's relationship. "Thank you for the drinks." She nodded politely to Donna and ran her fingers through Helene's hair, before caressing Sabina's cheek. "Though I have a feeling that they might mean a little punishment for your little doves."

Alex looked down at the girls, and chuckled. "That might be too much of what they wanted," she replied as she put her hand on Patrice's shoulder. "But I'm sure we'll think of something."

"Of course." Selena smiled and followed Sam's gaze, noting the other woman was nodding to one of her wealthier clients who had just entered. She looked back warmly to the blondes. "We will let you get back to your night, but thank you." She nodded to Patrice and Donna as they took their leave. It was good to see when things resolved themselves. As far as she was concerned, there was too little of this in the world.

As they walked away, Alex watched Samantha wrap her arm around Selena, hinting at the nature of the relationship without being too overt. She let out a breath of relief before smiling down to Patrice. She dipped to kiss her softly, silently appreciating that the blonde was at her side that night. "I believe I saw Brynn just now, and I'd like to catch her before she disappears again. If the two of you will excuse me for a moment." She gave a mock half bow, fitting to her costume, and hurried off into the crowd.

Patrice watched her go and pulled Nathalie a little closer by the light chain, brushing her fingers over the feathers on the girl's back. Sabina was doing her best to not watch, but Patrice was already sure the rest of the evening would be quite memorable.

Brynn, as Alex guessed, was exceedingly busy, but she was good about acknowledging and delegating Alex's request that a bottle of wine be sent to Samantha and Selena's rooms. On her way back through the main hallway, she smiled, knowing instantly that the woman in front of her was Liz. "Fashionably late isn't generally your style," she said as she walked a little closer.

"Sometimes it simply can't be helped." Liz turned and smiled slightly. "Good evening Alex." She leaned into kiss Alex's cheek as her companion turned. "Casey's flight was delayed." She turned back to the other woman.

The kiss was feather light, and Alex returned it without thinking. She managed to keep surprise off of her face only by the smallest margin. Too many surprises in too short a span of time... Alex thought to herself as she offered Casey a polite smile. Casey Novak was the last person she ever expected to see at the club, especially with Liz. And while she felt no malice towards the redhead, she wasn't exactly sure that the air between them was clear. "It's good to see you, Casey..."

"You too." Liz, of course, hadn't exactly given her a guest list for the night, but she wasn't entirely prepared either. She never quite knew what to expect when she met Liz for lunch in the city, which was probably what kept her calling when she came to town. Alex looked good. Far better than the last time they had met, but that was surprisingly long ago, "It looks like my conference chose a good time to bring me to New York." She had hardly ever gone out with Liz like this, but had trusted the older woman when she said it was a night not to be missed, and she never really could deny Liz an outright request.

Licking her lips, Alex looked around them, hoping it didn't seem like she was seeking a way out. Whatever the nature of Liz and Casey's relationship was, it was one she didn't want to know about. Still, she was bound by the unwritten rules of the environment. "Patrice and Donna are just inside. I'm sure you'd like to say hello," she said to Liz.

"Of course," Liz nodded as they stepped out of the main hall. "Therese has certainly outdone herself this year." And Liz wondered if it had anything to do with Sabina's presence. She thought that it might, as lately Therese was thinking more and more of the future. There had been quite a few late nights recently with her and Jonas and too much wine. But this was a night to celebrate and she tried to put all of that from her mind.

Alex took a deep breath and settled back into her place beside Patrice, putting an almost territorial hand on her shoulder. "I ran into Liz on my way back," she said, forcing herself to fall into the role she normally took at the club. "And it seems she's brought a date."

Liz silently raised one of her eyebrows at Alex's behavior. "Casey, this is Donna Geyson, she's with the US Attorney's office, and this is Alex's partner, Patrice LaRue."

Casey started for a moment, Liz's introduction sinking in. Quickly she remembered herself and nodded at each of the women. She recognized Donna, though it took her a moment to place her. It made sense she would be in this world, Casey mused. She found her to have many qualities similar to Liz, though with different overtones. The blonde woman next to Alex was beautiful, and her smile and manner was a pleasant contrast to Alex's usually austere refinement. That Patrice was also an attorney almost went unsaid. She had that natural confidence of a litigator, and moreover knowing Alex she'd only find time to meet someone if they lived at the courthouse as much as she did. She glanced at the three girls on the floor, sensing they wouldn't be getting introductions. She knew enough not to be surprised, but this was quite a different setting from how she had last seen Cabot. Liz's presence and poise next to her helped the redhead take it all in, but much still seemed unreal.

Donna nodded to Casey, seeing the recognition there. "We've met, actually. It's good to see you again." She smiled pleasantly.

Nathalie fidgeted, sensing from Alex's change in behavior that there was definitely something going on...or something had gone on. She wasn't sure, but she wished they could go back to the rooms and get away from the much too complicated social aspect of it all. Sabina subtly reached out and took Nathalie's hand, trying to stop her fidgeting.

Patrice smiled at Casey, immediately sensing there was a history there that she might or might not learn from Alex at some other time. She didn't pursue the thought for the moment, distracted by the girls' fidgeting. She tugged on the chains in warning. Patrice wasn't interested in punishing Nathalie outright; they didn't have that kind of relationship. Still though, they were in good company and she would be remiss to let the infractions go unnoticed.

It was more disconcerting than Alex cared to admit to see Casey there. They shared too many things, and Alex wasn't entirely willing to let her be part of this. She wasn't willing to deal with memories or speculation that night. "Who is that with Therese?" she murmured as she saw the contessa crossing the room wrapped in a harlequin's cloak. Therese was talking to a tall blonde dressed in an elaborate, period appropriate ball gown with a simple leather mask tied around her eyes. And beside her was a gentleman whose tattoos extended, Alex was sure, beyond what was showing of his hands and neck. She hadn't seen them before, and that was enough of a distraction from Casey.

"That," Liz said as she turned, "is Hilda Bor, the Markise of Sorø and her husband Geoffrey. She's something like my niece and Therese is offering them the opportunity to buy into the parent company that owns the clubs." It was part of what the three of them had been talking about during those late nights. Brett would certainly inherit her fair share, but they all knew that she wasn't really interested in overseeing the clubs. And Therese had high hopes for Sabina, but they thought that she was still far too young. Hilda had been obvious choice.

"Ah..." There was so much about Liz's personal life that Alex actually didn't know. She vaguely thought about the details of the connection between Liz and the woman, but she had only just found out about Liz's daughter. It was almost exhausting. There was a time, however, when she might have been jealous, when she might have wanted the option that the Markise was getting. But that, she was sure, was the past. What she wanted was what she had with Patrice, and the simplicity of that was more fulfilling than she thought anything could ever be. She forced herself, out of politeness, to turn her attention back to Casey. "You've picked a hell of a night to visit," she said.

Casey gave Alex a half-smile, "Liz did say it was not to be missed." Her next comment was cut off by a young auburn haired girl dressed in simple but revealing black lingerie bearing a tray of champagne flutes, each only partially filled. She took one as a hush began to roll through the previously boisterous room. The redhead looked around, and saw eyes turning toward the grand staircase.

Patrice took a glass as well and saw Therese standing, poised on the landing where the stairs branched off to wind the rest of the way to the second floor. She reached down and nudged Sabina and Nathalie to turn around so they could pay their respects. Nathalie was breathless in the silence. Therese looked every bit as regal and composed as she ever was, and it was hard to believe that she had ever seen her come so undone with Lara. She moved closer to Sabina, eager to hear what was to be said.

Therese looked out over the room, proud at how well everything had turned out. Most of the people were familiar behind their masks, many of them were from out of town. She took note of where Liz and Jonas were in the room; Hilda was close to the foot of the staircase. Therese raised her glass as the room went completely silent. "Welcome and thank you all for coming. 31 years ago I moved to New York for the first time. I suppose it would have been more appropriate to celebrate last year, but such is life." There was mild laughter from the crowd. "And a few months later, Jonas and I opened Il Salone here, a companion its sister in already opened in London. Quite a bit has happened in the intervening time. Jonas and Elizabeth married and had a daughter. I suspect that they don't know that she's lurking over in those shadows." Therese gestured toward Brett with her glass, ignoring the way the girl was blushing.

She continued the speech, vaguely sketching the important events of the past 30 years and acknowledging those that had made the club's success possible. That done, she turned back toward Brett, Hilda, and Sabina, all conveniently on the same side of the room. "But this party is not just about remembering the past. It is also about planning for the future. Elizabeth, Jonas, and I have no intention of simply letting what we have created fade away, and to that end, we must carefully chose our successors. We have begun that process tonight. Earlier, we extended an invitation to Hilda Bor to purchase a significant stake in the club's parent company, and I am delighted to say that she and her husband have agreed. Her father was a dear friend, and we can think of no one better to join us in overseeing the club's current operations." She smiled down at Hilda and waited for the applause to die down before she continued.

"And while she might still be hiding in the corner, I believe that I've convinced Brett of the importance of caring for her inheritance. You will certainly be seeing more of her as she familiarizes herself with just how we do things. Finally, I would like to introduce everyone who does not know her to my great niece, Sabina, who I have recently named as my heir, though I think that will come as a surprise to her." Therese chuckled at Sabina's wide-eyed astonishment. "Now, I do hope that you all will enjoy your evening. I have taken you attention from it long enough." She raised her glass and took a small sip before she stepped off of the stairs.

Glasses were raised, and as the hum of activity steadily resumed, Patrice placed a hand on Sabina's shoulder. The girl was shaking lightly, likely both from the news and from the many sets of eyes that had turned in her direction. Patrice leaned down and kissed Sabina's cheek and smiled at her reassuringly. "Congratulations, Sabina." She had obviously known nothing either prior to the announcement, but from what she knew of the girl, Therese had chosen well; Patrice was just proud to have been able to share what she could with her. She knew, without asking, that Alex felt the same.

Alex beamed and nodded at Sabina, offering her silent congratulations and approval. She could not have imagined all that had happened since Paris, but she was happy to have been a part of it. Sabina just nodded, still in shock. She hadn't expected to be mentioned in Therese's speech and now she didn't have any idea about how she was supposed to react. She leaned into Patrice's touch, drawing comfort from it.

During Therese's speech, Liz had turned to find Brett in the crowd. She had had no idea that her daughter was even in town, let alone that she had been talking to Therese about anything. She needed to go talk to Brett, but first she had to take care of Casey. She leaned in to whisper, "Casey, would you like to go back to my room?" Hopefully Casey would agree and she could have someone show her back while she found Brett.

Casey started; she had been trying to work out what little she could of the connections between her impromptu companions and was feeling she was missing quite a bit. "Oh…" It took her a moment. Liz's and her time together since she'd left the city had been sporadic, but something always kept her coming back. Perhaps it was Liz's characteristic bluntness that made such an arrangement work. She'd only been to Liz's rooms at the club once before and not for quite some time, "I...yes...ok" The redhead knew she was blushing and wanted to believe Alex didn't know precisely what they were discussing.

"Good. I just need to talk to Brett for a moment, and then I'll join you." Liz smiled and caught one of the passing house slaves. "Would you show Casey back to my rooms?" The slave nodded and led Casey off. Liz waited for a moment before she excused herself from the group and went to look for Brett.

Alex knew she had to let go, but avoiding jealousy was not her forte. She pretended not to have noticed the conversation and the, admittedly, pretty blush that spread across Casey's cheeks. Instead, she focused on Nathalie and Sabina, still waiting patiently. Then, she turned to Donna. "We should excuse ourselves as well. I'm sure you have plans for the evening." Even if they were merely sitting and watching.

Donna nodded. "Of course. I'm sure the two of you have plans as well." Donna pulled Helene up onto the couch as Patrice stood.

Patrice smiled and glanced at the floor before leaning in to kiss Donna's cheek. She was hardly aware of the shift, it was so naturally ingrained in her. "Enjoy your evening Donna." She waited for Nathalie and a still bewildered looking Sabina to stand before taking Alex's hand. "Shall we?"

"I thought we might go back to the rooms," Alex said quietly as she led Patrice across the room. She was not one to miss this sort of party for its opportunities to be seen and to speak to important people both in and out of the club. But between Therese's announcement and the influx of memories, she felt the need for the quiet, the comfort of their rooms. It was as if she was standing on the edge of something and could just barely see beyond it. Alex felt the need to savor the night in more intimate surroundings.

Patrice squeezed Alex's hand as they walked, "Yes, I think it's about time." They wove across the main room, toward the nearest corridor that led off toward their suite. Patrice was still looking around at the colors and costumes when a stunning and somewhat familiar pair caught her eye. She slowed and nodded in their direction, "I think we've met them? They're quite a ways from home." She could just sense Sabina shifting behind her as she noticed as well. The Duchess's pet was every bit as poised as she had been at the Christmas races, though now Sabina could easily rival her polish.

Alex recognized the duchess and Sadie just after Patrice and at the same time that they seemed to recognize them. It was impossible not to gape at the pair's costumes. The duchess wore a tall silver and blue mask, clearly the centerpiece to a deep blue dress trimmed in black velvet. Her eyes were bright as she changed their path to meet Alex and Patrice. And slightly behind her, Sadie's auburn hair flowed down her back, matching a wooden mask carved to represent flames. As they came closer, Alex noted that the young woman was naked save for what had to be thousands of ruby colored crystals affixed to her body in delicate patterns. Alex squeezed Patrice's hand. "So they are, but we should speak." Alex smiled and nodded to Caterina. "Welcome to New York."

Caterina nodded to Alex and Patrice as she came to a stop. "Thank you." Her first impulse was to lean in and kiss Alex's cheeks, but her mask prevented it. "You both look well. And Sabina, it's good to see you again." The girl had certainly come a long way since they had met in the club in Paris.

Sadie took in Sabina's appearance, as well as the other slave. The girl certainly wasn't cowering, and she certainly wasn't untouchable anymore. In the years since the Christmas races that Alex and Patrice attended, Sadie had grown up enough not to be jealous at any minor attentions Caterina gave the girl, but she certainly felt the thrill of competition. She had come to New York for an important audition, and while she appreciated Caterina's support, it had bothered her that Caterina wanted to go to the club the night after to support Hilda. Being there, however, and being part of one of the most, she fully realized, brilliant pairs there changed her mind quickly.

"Thank you," Alex replied, smiling. It seemed, almost as if they had come full circle. She would never have realistically considered seeing Caterina again as a possibility, but it was pleasant. "It's wonderful to see you both, and your costumes..." Alex chuckled as she shook her head. "I can only imagine what one of these looks like in Paris."

"Believe me, this stands up well in comparison." Caterina trailed her fingertips down Sadie's spine. "But you look as if you're retiring for the night, and we wouldn't want to keep you."

Patrice smiled at the couple. "Yes, I believe we are talking our leave for the night, but it was very good to see you both." And it was; it somehow made Patrice remember that what she had experienced was real, and that these people were still living their lives...wherever they happened to be. "I hoe you enjoy your night and your time in the city."

Nathalie looked over her shoulder as they moved towards the rooms, just as the couple was moving in the opposite direction. She couldn't believe how stunning they were. She couldn't believe the absolute confidence with which the redhead wore nearly nothing but attracted so much attention. But she was pulled back to herself when Patrice lightly tugged her leash. The sounds of the party were becoming distant, and she found that she was not as nervous about retiring with Alex and Patrice as she thought she would be. Sabina was so involved in her own thoughts that she barely registered stepping into Alex and Patrice's rooms. She dropped to her knees without instruction. She wanted to go talk to Therese, to tell her that she had made some sort of mistake. She was going to have to meet Hilda and Brett, and she was already nervous about it. Just from her brief glimpses she had seen how much older than her they were, and how utterly in control they both looked. In that moment, she didn't feel like she was in control of anything. She could feel Alex, Patrice and Nathalie moving around her, could hear their voices, but she couldn't focus on anything.

Patrice noted Sabina's nearly vacant expression and smiled inwardly. A lot had happened for the girl that night, but there would be plenty of time to think, to discuss it later. Nathalie had looked around and then settled beside Sabina, but Patrice tugged at the girl's leads, "No, not quite yet." Her dress, while beautiful, was heavy and she had been looking forward to being helped out of it at the end of the night. She kissed Alex and eased her into a chair to the side where she could watch. "I think I'd like to put something more comfortable on for the remainder of the night," She turned her back to Sabina, motioning to the elaborate ties that held the dress snuggly around her form.

Sabina blinked and slowly looked at Patrice, trying to figure out just what it was that she wanted. Everything was moving slowly and it felt like it took her forever to stand up.

"Sabina..." Patrice's tone took on an edge. She didn't want to have to resort to a true punishment just yet, but the girl obviously wasn't paying attention to the moment.

Usually Sabina was the first to get to anything, so her hesitation worried Nathalie a little bit. It was a lot...probably more than she could even imagine. But she thought that focusing on something like undressing Patrice would help calm Sabina, so she offered her hand as Patrice spoke, helping Sabina the rest of the way up, squeezing the brunette's fingers lightly. Nathalie began to untie the dress at the top, nodding to the bottom ties for Sabina to take.

"Good girl," Patrice nodded to Nathalie, and her skin shivered pleasantly at the light touches of the girls' fingers and Alex's approving stare.

The edge in Patrice's voice helped to clear Sabina's head and she started untying the bottom of Patrice's dress. "I'm sorry." Once that was done, she let Nathalie continue as she went into the closet and pulled out the lingerie that she had dropped off a few days before.

Patrice stepped out of the dress once Nathalie finished and let Sabina remove her undergarments. Before putting on the lingerie, she paused and pulled Sabina in by the collar, kissing her deeply. The young brunette was slowly coming back to herself, and Patrice was glad, there was plenty of the night left.

Alex crossed her legs, shifting with her growing desire. She didn't want to consider a time when such a display might not leave her aroused; in fact, she couldn't really imagine it. And as Patrice kissed Sabina, she watched Nathalie watching, engrossed but finally relaxing. The girl was an unexpected addition to their lives...to Sabina's life, really, but Alex was glad of it. They were young, but they were good for each other. "Pretty," she said, noting the lingerie was new. "And a nice surprise."

Patrice let Sabina help her into the outfit and stepped back into her heels. "I hoped you'd enjoy it." She nodded to Sabina. "Now you can kneel."

Sabina nodded slightly and sank back to the floor, concentrating on the movement. She leaned slightly against Nathalie, just touching her lightly, using the contact to further ground herself.

After simply enjoying the aesthetic for a moment, Alex rose. She went to Patrice and pulled her into her arms, pressing herself against her as she ran her hands up her back. "I do," she murmured before kissing her. "Why don't you rid Nathalie of her feathers while I have our other little bird undress me?" She smiled, stepping away and motioning to Sabina to stand again.

Patrice smiled and kissed Alex back, "Of course." She went to the bathroom, and came back a few moments later with a cloth and a bowl of warm water. She had been told the glue would dissolve easily, and with the first few passes over the girl's shoulders, was pleased that it was true. The blonde watched appreciatively as a few at a time, the feathers fell away from Nathalie's smooth skin, littering the floor. Nathalie shivered at the touch and closed her eyes. She knew it was all right to really trust Patrice and Alex, to let herself go with them as she did with Sabina.

Sabina stood back up and pushed Alex's jacket back off of her shoulders. She folded it lightly, then focused on unbuttoning Alex's shirt, brushing her fingers against Alex's skin as she did.

"Good girl." Alex ran her fingers through Sabina's hair. She was not liberal with her praise, but Sabina needed the focus. And if it went to her head, they would punish her for it later. She watched as Nathalie went from pretty bird to contented girl under Patrice's hands, and she could not help but smile.

With most of the feathers gone, Patrice quietly picked the last few from her hair and let Nathalie's hair fall down around her shoulders. She took a moment to shake the curls free, then lowered her fingers and unhooked her bra and pushed it off, coaxing the girl to her feet to push down the light lace panties. Nathalie was stiff at first, but Patrice was impressed that she didn't move to cover herself.

Sabina turned to look at Patrice and Nathalie, and she couldn't help but want to go to them. But she stayed where she was and finished undressing Alex. "I... I hope you didn't mind the drinks I took to Samantha and Selena."

Alex raised her eyebrows. "I had almost forgotten about the presumption," she said as she stepped out of her shoes. Alex pressed Sabina to her knees and smiled as she took the cloth from Patrice. "Do you think she's worried she won't get her punishment?" she asked the blonde.

Punishment was the farthest thing from Sabina's mind, and she blushed deeply. Really, she had been looking for anything to distract herself from the night's later events.

Patrice chuckled, "Perhaps." And she was looking forward to it every bit as much as Sabina might be. When Alex finished with Sabina's feathers and clothes and the girls knelt side by side again on the carpet, Patrice kissed Alex, then reached for Nathalie's mask, waiting for Alex to do the same with Sabina. Alex carefully sat the mask aside and brushed Sabina's hair back. She thought to the first night they had seen Sabina on her knees, and the difference now was striking. And there was no doubt in Alex's mind that Therese had made the right choice in making Sabina her heir.

"They're perfect," she said as she stepped back to Patrice, wrapping an arm around her as she contemplated the rest of the night.

"Quite," Patrice unclipped the leads from the girls' collars and let them fall on the floor. She pulled Alex toward the bedroom, she wouldn't have Nathalie do any less than choose to follow, as she doubted Lara had given much of a choice and Patrice had not intentions of bringing back any bad memories.

Sabina stood and turned to Nathalie offering her a hand up. "You're okay with this, right?" She wanted to double check before she followed Patrice and Alex into the bedroom.

"Yeah..." Nathalie nodded stiffly, but then she broke into a bright smile and squeezed Sabina's hand. "I really am...I want to do this," she whispered. And she took the opportunity to give Sabina a quick kiss before following the blondes.

When the girls walked in, Patrice was waiting with a set of cuffs. She held them out to Nathalie, "Tie her? I do believe you've had some practice." Patrice was observant, and the cuffs and tethers had been moved since she'd been there last.

Nathalie eyes went wide as she took the cuffs. She didn't even want to know what Patrice thought they were doing. But...it was exactly what it looked like. She glanced to Sabina as if to say "I thought you said someone cleaned up after we left." But she merely put the cuffs on the brunette's wrists and said quietly, "On the bed please." Nathalie's legs were shaking as Sabina crawled up on the bed. She could feel Patrice and Alex's eyes on her, and she fumbled with the tethers. Sabina could feel how nervous Nathalie was, so she didn't try to challenge her at all. She stretched her legs out and smiled up at her.

Patrice let the girl continue unhindered for a moment, then stepped over to place a calming hand on the back of Nathalie's neck, "Don't rush." Not that the brunette didn't look lovely so nervous, but that wasn't the point.

"I'm sorry," Nathalie said quietly. All of the surety she had come in the room with had almost completely melted away. But she finally finished with the tethers. She stepped back and bit her lip, keeping her eyes on the ground, and she could hear Alex chuckle.

Patrice smirked lightly and took a moment to run her fingers between Sabina's breasts, to the curls between her legs. The brunette was already wet despite her earlier distraction. She removed her hand and turned back to Nathalie, lifting her chin to look into her eyes. "Sabina deserves a bit of a punishment, but tonight doesn't seem like the time to whip her or the like. So I think it might be more fitting if she has to wait like that while we enjoy ourselves." The blonde watched for any signs of regret or panic in Nathalie's stare, making sure she didn't feel compelled.

Sabina bit her lip and shifted on the bed. She would much rather have been whipped, but she supposed that Patrice knew that and selected her punishment appropriately.

Confusion was what registered on Nathalie's face. She wasn't sure exactly where she fit into that enjoyment, as Patrice surely meant she and Alex would be enjoying themselves. She couldn't fathom Patrice meaning... "Me?" she blurted.

Patrice laughed. "Yes of course." She could almost feel Alex smiling from where she was relaxing on the couch, sipping what Patrice knew at this point would be mineral water. Patrice brushed a few strands of Nathalie's hair away and kissed her neck, "that is unless you'd rather not."

"No..." Nathalie took in a shuddering breath. "No...I...uhm...ok." She licked her lips and tried to relax, closing her eyes to Sabina and to Alex.

"Good." Patrice's fingers moved down the brunette's back, "do you have a safeword?" She doubted it would be that kind of scene, but it was good to know.

"Oh, it's...elephant..." Nathalie blushed. It was just a word, but it was one that made such a clear mental picture that she could remember it and bring herself out of anything. She shifted under Patrice's touch, unsure of what exactly she was allowed to do.

Well, that would be easy enough to remember. Patrice just nodded and stepped behind Nathalie, letting Sabina have a clear view and started touching her with more intent. Alex shifted on the sofa and watched as Nathalie started to relax again. She heard the girl draw in a jagged breath and almost squeak, and she smiled. "That's quite distracting," she said, shifting idly. Distracting was just what she wanted. Sabina had to agree. It was incredibly distracting and she squirmed impatiently.

"It is," Patrice didn't stop, but slipped her hand behind Nathalie, and pushed her fingers between the girl's thighs. "Mmn…but I do think someone 's enjoying it." The blonde kissed Nathalie's neck again, and held her more tightly as she slipped a finger, then two, inside of her.

"Oh!" Nathalie squirmed against Patrice's touch and licked her lips. This wasn't so bad. In fact, there was nothing bad about it. She relaxed into Patrice, even pressing forward into the touch, moaning softly. And she opened her eyes, she could see Sabina, which only made her more aroused

Sabina made eye contact with Nathalie and pulled against her restraints. It was quickly becoming clear just how much of a punishment being tired up was going to be.

Patrice noted Sabina's squirming and thought ahead to how beautifully she would come undone soon. The blonde moved her lips to the girl's ear, "I'm going to make you come so Sabina can watch but not before I do." She nipped at Nathalie's ear as she removed her fingers from inside of her, and slowly pressed the brunette onto the ground in front of her.

Alex's restraint was fading, especially as she saw Nathalie sink to her knees, wide eyed and clearly wanting. She flexed her fingers, wanting to touch herself but staying still. She watched as Nathalie carefully removed Patrice's panties and pressed forward. Licking her lips, Alex imagined Patrice's taste. Patrice moaned and arched her neck back. Nathalie's need was making her intent, and the blonde was enjoying the touch. She opened her eyes after a moment and looked at Alex, meeting her stare, and seeing her eyes clouded with arousal. She could imagine what Alex would feel like, and ran her fingers through Nathalie's hair, moaning again as she pressed forward into the girl's mouth.

Sabina watched all of it and tried very hard to be still, but it was utterly pointless. she could feel the wetness on her thighs, but the tethers kept her from pressing her legs together. She wanted to be involved, to be doing something, anything.

Nathalie whimpered against Patrice and doubled her efforts. She wanted to do something right, to show Patrice that she was more than willing, that she wanted to be there. And more than that, she wanted to feel the blonde come and to have her own arousal sated.

Finally, Patrice gripped Nathalie's hair and let herself go, breath catching for a moment before slowing gradually. She slowly moved back and drew Nathalie up into her arms. "Good girl...very good." She looked over the brunette's shoulder to see Alex standing and moving to join them.

Dizzy with Patrice's climax, Nathalie hardly realized that Alex was behind her, lifting her up and turning her into a kiss. She then felt herself pressed between the two women as Alex pulled Patrice close for a kiss. Nathalie had never felt so much heat, and she squirmed between them, her gaze falling on Sabina.

Sabina kept pulling on her restraints, trying to do something. "Please." She wasn't above begging, though she didn't expect to get any sort of positive response.

Patrice smiled and kissed Alex again over Nathalie's shoulder. The girl felt so good between them and she didn't hesitate to push her fingers inside of her again. The blonde glanced over at Sabina, fingers still working inside the brunette, "this is your punishment Sabina. Watch nicely and you might get your reward."

Laughing, Alex pressed her lips to Nathalie's neck, nipping lightly. she ran her hands up Nathalie sides, stopping to cup her breasts, to roll her nipples between her fingertips. "That's a good girl," she whispered as Nathalie moaned and arched into Patrice's touch.

Sabina whimpered, but she didn't say anything else. Whether she 'watched nicely' was solely at Patrice's discretion depending on what she wanted in that moment. Sometimes it was quiet stillness and sometimes it was clearly expressing her frustration, and she had yet to be able to predict just which Patrice wanted at any given time.

Patrice pushed further into Nathalie, enjoying the light moans of pleasure they were eliciting. "Do you want to come Nathalie?" She knew the answer was obvious. "You should ask Alex properly."

"Please," Nathalie whispered automatically. She cleared her throat and tried to find her voice. "Please...please can I come?" She felt instantly overwhelmed as Alex nodded and leaned in to kiss Patrice, pressing into her. Patrice might have still been touching her or maybe it was Alex...Nathalie wasn't sure, but she shuddered into both of them when her climax left her gasping for breath as Sabina thrashed against her restraints.

Patrice smiled and held Nathalie up as she got her balance again. She kissed the brunette's neck, "Beautiful." She looked over at Sabina, "Nathalie, do you think Sabina deserves a reward?" She had heard through the grapevine that Nathalie had taken to putting Sabina on her knees, and Patrice was curious to watch that dynamic.

"Uhm..." Nathalie tried to clear her head. "Yes? Yes," she said more firmly as she focused on Sabina. Sabina gratefully looked at Nathalie and arched toward her.

Patrice nodded. "And what should it be?" While Nathalie considered, the blonde pulled Alex closer and started brushing her fingers over the silk of her bra.

Alex licked her lips and shuddered at the touch, but she quickly removed her bra before Patrice could continue to tease. Nathalie, she saw, was cocking her head thoughtfully. "Can I...can I use a strap on?" the girl asked suddenly.

Sabina moaned loudly when she heard Nathalie's question, and she listened carefully for the answer. It wasn't something that Nathalie had ever shown an interest in before. She squirmed in anticipation.

Patrice paused and looked at the girl with renewed interest. "Yes, yes you may." This was slightly unexpected, but not at all unwelcome. The blonde stepped away from Alex and took the harness from the drawer, kneeling to put it on Nathalie, and tightening the straps. Sabina's anticipation only made it better.

Nathalie felt a little thrill run through her as Patrice stepped back. She had been thinking about this, but she hadn't had the courage to bring it up to Sabina. With Patrice and Alex there, she was still nervous, but they seemed interested in a good way. She bit her lip thoughtfully before crawling onto the bed, looking over her shoulder to catch Alex stealing a kiss from Patrice before she bent to kiss Sabina soundly.

Sabina arched up into the kiss and futilely tried to wrap her legs around Nathalie. "I trust you," she whispered, then started kissing every bit of skin that was within reach.

Smiling, Nathalie merely nodded. She took a deep breath before kissing down Sabina's neck as she cupped on of her breasts. Sabina didn't need to wait long, and Nathalie didn't want her to. She positioned herself before slowly pressing the toy into the brunette, watching her face intently.

Patrice smiled at the display and the murmured exchange between the girls. She didn't wait for long, however, feeling Alex's need still building, and pushed the other blonde back onto a chair. She made sure Alex had a full view of the bed, and sank to the floor in front of her, already reaching for the waistband of her panties.

"God, Patrice," Alex moaned softly. This was what she had been waiting for, and everything leading to it had only been added pleasantries. Her desire for Patrice, for that closeness had been building since they got dressed that evening. Still, she watched Sabina and Nathalie as she arched into Patrice.

Sabina kept pressing up against Nathalie, opening herself up to the other woman. "Yes. God."

"I...oh...Sabina..." Nathalie kissed her again, completely taken with the look on Sabina's face. She pressed her hand down to touch the brunette's clit while still trying to keep her balance with each thrust. "Please...please come..." She had completely forgotten Alex and Patrice.

Sabina bit her lip and nodded, still trying to get her arms or legs around Nathalie and thoroughly enjoying the freedom to pull at her restraints. She arched into Nathalie's touch and squirmed as she got closer and closer. She managed a quick breath right before her climax hit.

Patrice could hear the most delightful sounds from behind her, but didn't turn around. She leaned up and kissed her way down Alex's stomach while pressing the other blonde's legs apart slowly. Judging by Alex's light squirming and the wetness Patrice could feel as she slid lower, the blonde had little control remaining.

Finally, Alex tangled her fingers in Patrice's hair and gently pressed her down fully, moaning as she felt Patrice's hot breath, as she felt her tongue. "Patrice," she whispered, closing her eyes, listening to Sabina as she came. It wouldn't take much for her.

Patrice didn't answer, but gave Alex what she knew the other woman wanted. Sabina's breath was calming behind her, and the moment seemed to hang in the thick air of the room.

Moments later, as Alex rolled her own nipples between her fingertips, pinching them lightly, she drew in a shuddering breath and moaned softly as she came, the climax slow and delightfully long. When she opened her eyes, she was looking down at Patrice and smiling lazily. And she pulled her up into a kiss before looking over to see the girls curled up together, Sabina having been untied in the interim.

Patrice kissed her again and sighed contentedly. The candles flickered along the walls, and a pleasant silence fell over the room. She glanced at the girls and smiled, pulling Alex closer to her. "I love you," she whispered.

"Love you," she whispered back as she lazily raked her fingers through Patrice's hair. Alex was content in the moment and settled against Patrice, pressing her lips to the blonde's cool shoulder as she watched the candlelight play over Nathalie and Sabina. Nathalie's eyes were closed, and Sabina's, she could see, were beginning to droop as she curled around Nathalie.

Patrice waited a few minutes, enjoying the feeling of Alex's fingers in her hair. Eventually she stood, and quietly pulled the other blonde up. She looked at the two girls, happily asleep together, then back at Alex, who nodded. Patrice pulled the blanket from the foot of the bed over them both and stepped back into Alex's arms to watch as Nathalie pulled Sabina closer.

"We should go home." Her whisper was feather light, and a few tears were starting to form in the blonde's eyes. She wasn't sad, not in the slightest, just tired, and incredibly satisfied with life. It seemed right. She wanted to go home with Alex and wake up together. The girls deserved the same. The night would move on, the candles would burn out, and Sabina would come home when she was ready.

When they were dressed, Alex took one last look at the girls and pulled Patrice's into her arms and pressed their foreheads together. She was smiling, her eyes watery blue as she caressed Patrice's cheek and caught a small tear with her thumb, wiping it away. She kissed her lightly, pulling away only to take her hand. Alex held it as she closed the door softly. Their footsteps were muffled in the dim hallway, and she could still here muted sounds of the ongoing celebration. But her heart was quiet, just as it was full.

Chapter Text

A light, spring breeze fluttered crisp, white linens as it threaded through taller buildings surrounding the rooftop terrace. Each table was graced with simple lilies, and only in the sky's reflection in the silverware did the scene borrow a more living color. The places were set for the usual elegant Sunday brunch, as tradition responded to the season's renewal. It was the first day of the new year where one could comfortably enjoy a lingering meal outside—that day where the winter-weary citizens of the city finally stepped out, smiled, and immediately forgot the past winter's drudgery. Alex couldn't help a smile as she and Patrice followed the waiter to a choice corner table at which Liz was, predictably, already waiting for them.

"You're late." Liz's tone was clipped, but her smile belied her candor.

Alex couldn't help but blush; she never quite got over her fear of being late for Liz, no matter how many years had changed and softened their relationship. "I apologize Liz; we had a bit of a delay getting a cab." She leaned over and kissed the older blonde on the cheek before taking her seat, luxuriating in the unfamiliar warmth of the day.

"You're forgiven Alexandra, but only because I don't want to make trouble in front of my goddaughter." Liz shook her head indulgently and turned to Patrice, reaching her arms out.

"Of course, Liz," Patrice smiled and handed over her charge, pausing to disentangle a tiny hand from her hair. The baby let out a giggle of delight, and immediately reached for Liz's necklace instead. She smiled up at the judge through already vibrant blue eyes that could easily have been either of her mothers'. Liz chuckled as she noted that Eli had finally grown enough hair for Patrice to tie it up into a soft ponytail on her head. She didn't need to ask who had done it; Alex wouldn't have taken the time to match the ribbon to the child's clothing.

The older woman looked down at Eli for a few moments longer before shifting her gaze briefly to the two sitting across from her. Though Patrice had carried her, Liz knew the couple had taken considerable care to keep a mystery whose genetics were connected to the baby, a small luxury of having the time and the means to plan such things. However, Liz could already see hints of the answer in her young features, minute details in the expressions starting to emerge that were unmistakably those of her former student.

A waiter appeared a moment later with menus for the two newcomers. He looked to Liz, asking if they would be ordering drinks.

Liz raised an eyebrow at her companions, "Three mimosas and one orange juice I assume?"

Alex couldn't help a smile and glance at Patrice. "Make that two orange juices maybe?" Patrice looked back at her and nodded, also smiling and blushing slightly. "Yes, please."

Liz caught the exchange, and nodded at the waiter before turning back to the two blondes. "Am I to assume congratulations are in order?"

Patrice nodded, a genuine smile on her features as Liz handed Eli off to her so she could get her settled "Well we weren't saying anything quite yet, but we hope so." The baby made a discontented noise at being taken from Liz, and Patrice picked her back up, letting her grab one of the spoons from her place setting. "We haven't told anyone else, not even Donna yet."

Alex smiled warmly to Patrice and reached out to their daughter in a vain attempt to substitute her finger for the spoon. The baby, however, was not having it, and she gurgled happily as she banged the utensil against the table. "It's actually been a while since we've talked to Donna," she mused. "How is she?"

"She's well, by all accounts. She and Lara have moved in together out in California. I went out to see her a few weeks ago and they seem settled and happy, as hard as that is to believe." She sipped her mimosa.

Raising her eyebrows, Alex looked to Patrice. "I still remember that woman's face..." She shook her head as she reached into the diaper bag and produced the baby's cup, handing it to Patrice. Despite her best efforts, the baby intercepted it and knocked it across the table. Alex was consistently awed by the sippy cups that didn't spill, but she still tensed, getting ready to clean up the mess that never came.

Liz retrieved the cup and handed it to Liz. "She's much less... intense now." And she seemed to suit Donna, so Liz wasn't going judge.

Patrice nodded and accepted the cup from Liz. "Well, that's good to hear. Donna knows what she's doing I'm sure. Though, I still don't think I've ever seen a night like that at the club before or since." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "Really though, I don't think we've been in the past months." She couldn't remember really when the last time had been. They'd let their rooms go, and only went when Liz or someone of similar persuasion promised a special occasion that couldn't be missed, though even those nights were getting fewer.

"I think the last time was Therese's birthday, actually," Alex said thoughtfully. And it had been especially cold that night, so it had been months. There were other things to fill their time, and Alex still had moments where she was surprised with how content she found herself in those little things. Still, the nights they got away still held a sense of their old thrill. Some habits were hard to break. "You know...we haven't seen Sabina or Nathalie since then either, but she called yesterday when Patrice was picking Eli up from daycare."

"Oh? How are they doing?" Liz held and hand out to Eli letting her play with her fingers now that the spoon was no longer interesting.

"They're doing well." Alex chuckled lightly at Liz and Patrice as she watched them with the baby. She wasn't sure she would ever have their easy way with children. But she was certainly learning a thing or two. "Sabina was actually thrilled to be headed to Rome for some location shooting. Her project was funded."

At Patrice raising one of her eyebrows, Alex gave an apologetic smile. Eli had promptly gotten into the laundry room and decided to dump the dogs' food out once Patrice brought her home, and that had made her completely forget to tell the blonde about the phone conversation.

"That's fantastic. I thought that Therese wasn't going to be able to fund all of it." Therese hadn't said anything to her about it, but she had been busy opening a new club in Prague, so they hadn't spoken as often as they usually did.

"Well," Alex said, shifting as the waiter put their plates down, "I ran into Selena Duran a couple of months ago, and she actually spoke to Sam Kincaid." It had been much easier than going through Sam's office for a meeting, even if Alex could have pulled the family friend card. She and Samantha had met for coffee, which led to a video conference with Sabina later. "Part of the funding came from the two of them, and Sabina actually found the rest," she continued as she carefully moved both her fork and Patrice's out of Eli's reach, "in Caterina Saxton."

Patrice laughed, "And I wouldn't be surprised if Sadie made an appearance in the cast." She shifted the baby to her other side, "not that she would be a bad choice at all."

Liz chuckled. "Well, I suppose it helps soften the blow when your producer's girlfriend is actually a good actress."

"She was surprised Sadie agreed...she's not exactly a smalltime actress anymore. But Sabina said she liked the script." And Alex wasn't going to speculate about how much the nature of Sadie's relationship to Caterina had to do with that.

Patrice did her best to feed herself and Eli and keep the better part of the food on the plate rather than the table. "Is Brett still in Seattle?" They had gotten to know Liz's daughter more casually since she kept resurfacing in New York.

Liz shook her head. "She's actually in London this month, getting ready to open a new show at the gallery. I'm flying out there next weekend for the opening."

As she put down her glass, Alex dipped to pick up the napkin that had fallen from Patrice's knee. "Did Page and Bailey--it's Bailey, isn't it--go with her?" She shook her head and cut into her crepe. "Brett certainly stays busy."

"They went out a few days ago. They didn't want to pull Bailey out of school for a whole month right at the end of the year." Liz smiled fondly. "I'm looking forward to seeing them. I keep trying to tell Brett that Seattle is too far away, but I don't think she'd ever convince Page to move to New York."

"It is quite a ways." And Patrice knew it first-hand. She finished with her food and pushed the plate out of reach of Eli, who was thankfully starting to settle, resting against the blonde's shoulder.

Patrice and Eli made a contented looking pair, and Alex could not help a soft smile as she watched them. She had been as apprehensive as she had been excited about the first pregnancy, but now, she was looking forward to the way their new addition would fill their lives. There would be new things to worry about--like how Eli would take to a new baby and how they would manage two young children--but she was content with those worries. It also helped that she would be at a place where she could take a little more time from work the time around.

She finally drew her gaze away from the pair and back to Liz, bringing herself back to the conversation. "Well, with Therese and Jonas thinking of settling in that little place they found in Sorrento, I'm sure she'll be here more often." The changes and shifts in the management of the club had been subtle, and in truth, Alex and Patrice hadn't been around enough to really notice anything. But Alex still made it a point to keep up with things.

Liz nodded. Part of her was still conflicted about Therese and Jonas' move, but she had reconciled herself to it for the moment. "She has some interesting ideas that hopefully won't require Therese coming back to hold the members' hands when she implements them. But that's at least a year away." It still amazed her that Brett was making long term plans.

Patrice smiled at the way life seemed to move on when you weren't paying attention. Eli had fallen asleep with one hand in Patrice's hair, and the fingers of the other in her mouth. "Maybe we'll see them when we get over to visit Sabina like we've been promising." They were always planning to get away, but it wasn't so easy with Eli in tow, transatlantic passengers weren't ever too pleased to see a wriggling baby getting on their flight.

"Maybe, but I think getting someone home and into bed might be more of a priority right now." Alex smiled to Liz as she put Eli's cup in the diaper bag and slipped the straps onto her shoulder. It was always good to see Liz like this, and they would do it again in a month, which she knew would go by too fast. She offered her hand to Patrice and couldn't resist running her fingers gently through Eli's hair when Patrice stood. She was content to let her thoughts dwell on the good memories that the conversation with Liz and brought up, and she hoped Patrice would agree to having a lazy afternoon.

Liz smiled and nodded, waiving Alex off when she reached for the check. As the trio wound their way back through the other tables, the older woman watched them peacefully. The din of the city below was pleasantly muted, and the last clouds were finally clearing. She relaxed for a few moments before getting ready to leave, of course there were things to do, but some moments should be savored. If life were to be condensed to music, these moments, these rendezvous would be the chorus, keeping friends and lovers coming together between the myriad verses of life.