Title: Reaching Out, Holding In
Author: Michelle K. (CageyGrl@yahoo.com)
Rating: PG-13
Site: http://glimmershine.tripod.com
Archive: Wing Swing. Myself. WWFemslash archive, if they want it. Anyone else, ask.
Spoilers: Seasons 1 through 3
Pairing: Donna/Laurie
Summary: The past and present collide.
Disclaimer: Characters are the sole property of ABS, WB and NBC, not necessarily in that order. Title somewhat stolen from 'Elsewhere' by Sarah McLachlan.
Thanks: To McKay for looking it over and catching my mistakes. Any errors - grammatical or plot-wise - are my own.

*

Reaching Out, Holding In by Michelle K.

Donna had always liked bars.

There wasn't a particular reason for her liking; nor was it a great love that consumed her days. She wasn't a barfly or an alcoholic.

She was just a person who liked sitting around, nursing a whiskey sour for half the night. She was just a person who liked watching people; who liked the possibility of meeting someone new.

Maybe even the next person she would love. Anything was possible.

It was a strangely romantic idea about saloons, but it was hers. And she was strange, and a romantic, and someone not averse to new things.

Even if, more often than not, she found them scary.

*

Late spring was turning into early summer; the campaign was in full swing, Josh was driving her crazy, and Cliff was no longer her boyfriend.

Not that any of those things were particularly new; working at the White House was perpetually hectic, Josh always drove her crazy, and she was usually sans a man in her life.

But, on this particular night, she wasn't interested in considering how her life retained both chaos and commonality. Nor was she interested in sitting home while her roommate had noisy sex with her vaguely distasteful boyfriend.

So she went to a bar.

It wasn't one she frequented; actually, all the bars she went to weren't 'frequent' stops, per say. She liked to alternate, so that she could weeks without being in the same place twice.

It was somehow a comfort to have anonymity; to not become a 'regular.' To not look like a pathetic single girl with nothing else to do.

Although she thought it might be a fair assessment.

This particular bar wasn't one she ever remembered being in; although she supposed she had to have been. After all, she knew the name and location somehow. She figured that the place itself wasn't noteworthy.

And, after half an hour of nursing a whiskey sour, she decided it was below being unnoteworthy. The décor was nondescript, the bartender inattentive, and the patrons themselves not that interesting.

Except for one particular patron, that is - but Donna couldn't quite tell while.

It was almost like she recognized her from somewhere. But since she had such a huge number of acquaintances, she couldn't place her.

All she knew was that she was beautiful. After all, she didn't need memory to come to that conclusion. Her complexion, hair, eyes, clothing, were all dark. She looked exotic, and Donna wondered where she was from. Greece? Italy? For all Donna knew, the woman could've been from South Dakota. She seemed like a bright, vivacious woman - at least if the way she smiled and laughed at the man she was with was any indication.

Donna had a feeling it was, but she didn't know if was instinct or some sliver of memory.

"Refill?" the bartender said, officially breaking whatever trance she was in. He was looking at her lecherously, like he'd figured something out. Going from inattentive to creepy was quite a leap, Donna thought. She wondered if it would make his mother proud.

"No," she replied. "I'm good."

"Want to buy her a drink?"

She blinked. "What? No," she added, not letting him answer the question that wasn't a question. She pulled some money out of her purse and slapped it down on the bar. "I have to...I don't owe you an explanation." She was acting somewhat like a moron, but being indignant was more important at the moment.

As she was leaving, she noticed the woman glance at her. And, not so quickly, glance away.

Her heart jumped into her throat. She told herself it was because of her irritation at the bartender.

She didn't really believe it.

*

A few nights later, she went back to the generally unimpressive bar.

The lecherous bartender wasn't there. Neither was the woman. Not that she cared. Or, she at least told herself she didn't care.

She knew it wasn't really the truth.

After an hour, she got up and left.

*

Another couple of days later, Donna went into the bar again. It was an even bigger departure from her routine, but she willfully ignored it.

She had just received her whiskey sour when she heard a woman's voice to her left.

"Gin and tonic."

Donna looked over to see the woman from the first night sitting down five stools away. She gazed at her a fraction too long, just bordering on staring. She moved her eyes back to her drink.

"Thanks," the woman said as she received her glass.

There was silence for a while, outside of minor chatter and clatter. Then,

"Don't I know you from somewhere?"

Donna looked over to the other woman. "Excuse me?" she said, although she knew perfectly well what she said.

"You look familiar." The woman was studying Donna, sizing her up. It made her a little uncomfortable, if only because she thought she was misreading her intentions.

"Well, I've been here before," Donna said. "About a week ago. Maybe you saw me then."

"Oh. Right." She smiled. "You seemed to be having a problem with the bartender."

"He was trying to overcharge me," Donna explained lamely.

"He is an ass," she replied. "Only works once a week, though, so it's easy to avoid him if you really want to."

"I think I might just do that," Donna said with a smile. "My name's Donna, by the way."

"Laurie." She paused. "Do you mind if I move down a little?"

"No," Donna replied.

Laurie sat down in the stool next to Donna. Part of Donna wanted to lean in further; part of her wanted to pull away. She just stayed where she was.

"So," Laurie said, "would it be horribly cliché to ask you if you come in here often?"

"Maybe. But there's nothing bad about cliches, at least when they're helping to advance the conversation. Then, eventually, you can get to a point where you don't have to use things that have been said before."

"Ah. Well, since that's cleared up - do you come in here often?"

"No. Just a couple of times before." She left out the fact that Laurie was her reason for the last two visits. "And you?"

"Sometimes. The firm where I work is a couple of blocks away."

"Oh. You're a lawyer, then." She stopped for a moment as she came to a realization. Lawyer + named Laurie = Sam's hooker/law student friend. That's why she first looked familiar. She suddenly became nervous, but for different reasons. "Really? Lawyer. You know, my boss is a lawyer, his boss is a lawyer who just dated a lawyer. My boss's best friend is a lawyer. And I just broke up with a lawyer."

Laurie looked somewhere between amused and confused. "Really."

Donna took a sip of her drink. If she were smart, she'd just leave. Laurie was a former prostitute and Sam's former one-night-stand/friend, which made this complicated beyond belief. She didn't need any new friends, she told herself. There was no reason to stay.

But she didn't move a centimeter. "Sorry. I just babble from time to time."

"It's okay," Laurie replied. "It's actually rather endearing."

A blush brightened Donna's cheeks. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. So, what do you do around all those lawyers you speak of?"

"Oh. I'm just an assistant," Donna replied. She didn't mention the 'White House' part, if only to keep from bringing up a less than smooth part of Laurie's life. She had no clue as to why Laurie's comfort was of importance to her.

"There's no such thing as just an assistant. I'm sure you run the whole office."

Donna nodded. "Pretty much."

The two women laughed. Donna watched her face brighten, and she almost forgot about all the complications.

*

Donna had a couple of drinks with Laurie. They'd bounced around on a dozen different topics, from politics to why car companies chose songs that were popular five years ago for their commercials.

"I'll have to be going," Laurie said. "I have to get up early in the morning."

"So do I, actually," Donna replied.

"Well, walk out with me then," she said.

So, she did. The air was warm against her skin, and Laurie's body was a few scant inches from her. Donna wasn't close to drunk, but she still felt strangely light-headed.

"That's my car," Donna said. "Isn't it a beauty? I say that sarcastically, of course."

"Of course," Laurie replied.

"Hey, back off," Donna said jokingly. "I didn't say you could pick on her."

"It's a her, huh?"

"It always is."

Laurie smirked, and Donna wondered if she was getting some unintended meaning out of the comment. She let it pass.

"So," Laurie began as she leaned on the car - also known as 'her.' "Will I see you around again?"

Donna shrugged. "Probably. I like to go out for a drink from time to time."

"Okay." She smiled. "Good night, Donna."

"Goodnight." She watched Laurie as she walked away. When she got to her car, she looked back and waved. Donna returned the wave, plus a tiny smile.

She smiled all the way home.

*

She dreamt of Laurie that night. It was a dream she'd been having for years, although not always about the same woman. When she was thirteen, it was her best friend. When she was fourteen, it was her brother's girlfriend. When she was sixteen, it was her art teacher. When she was nineteen, it was her lit professor. When she was twenty-three, it was CJ. Years since, it had bounced around, sometimes women from the past, sometimes women from the present.

Now, she's twenty-eight, and it's Laurie. Laurie's fingers sliding down her skin, Laurie's mouth moving up her thigh. It's her that looks down upon her with eyes a mix of lust and affection.

The dream's amazing vivid, as it always had been. When she woke, she shrugged it off. Dreams don't mean anything - screw what her psych professor said. They're just a series of images. Doesn't mean you necessarily want to experience them, or that you should.

It's just a dream.

The rest of the day, her mind kept wandering back to dark hair brushing against her stomach.

But it didn't mean a thing.

*

The routine was completely ruined. Because, in barely a week and a half, Donna had wandered into the same bar four times.

The fourth time, Laurie was already sitting in a booth alone. Donna smiled at the sight of her.

"Can I sit down?" Donna asked.

"Knock yourself out," Laurie replied. "Not literally, of course."

"Thus, my plans for banging my head against the table are ruined." She slid next to Laurie.

"Well, I hate to be a deterrent. Live and let live, I say."

"Don't worry about it," Donna said with a wave of her hand. "I can knock myself out at home. My roommate just bought a new coffee table. Oak, I think it is."

"Did anybody ever tell you that you're nuts?"

"You mean today?"

"For a start."

Donna shrugged. "Only three times."

Laurie laughed. "I think I like you, Donna."

"You're not so bad yourself."

Laurie smiled slyly. "You just don't know me well enough yet."

With that, the bartender came over. Donna noticed him as the lecherous one from the first time - and he still looked as lecherous as he had before.

"What can I get for you ladies?"

"Gin and tonic," Laurie answered.

"Whiskey sour," Donna said.

He shot Donna a self-satisfied smirk before leaving, while Donna just narrowed her eyes at him.

"I hate that guy," Donna said. "He's such a little twerp."

"Yeah, I didn't know he'd be here tonight. Must've switched days." Laurie shrugged. "But he doesn't bother me much."

"That's just because you don't care what other people think of you," Donna replied with a semi-pout.

"And you do?"

"Usually. And, most of the time, what people think of me is less than flattering."

"Well, remember," Laurie replied, "I still do like you."

Donna smiled, and she wondered why Laurie liking her made her forget about every cutting remark someone had said to her.

Later in the evening, Laurie asked, "So, what's your family like? All I know is that you're from Wisconsin."

"Well, we're Protestant, semi-regular church goers. My father owned an electronics store, mostly TVs. But, he expanded into VCRs and computers. My mother was a housewife, but I guess homemaker is apparently the better term. I have an older brother. That's pretty much it."

"But what are they like? Nice? C'mon, I told you all about my mother and father. Even if it wasn't interesting." She smiled.

"It was plenty interesting." Donna paused. "Well, they're just regular people. I've never really had a problem with them." It was a lie, but Laurie never questioned it.

"You are much luckier than the rest of us."

Donna offered a weak smile. She never felt very lucky, even when things were going well. Even now, when an incredible woman was treating her as someone worthwhile.

The night came to a close a couple of hours later. As they were walking to their cars, Laurie casually said, "Maybe we should stop running into each other."

Donna blinked. "Why?"

"I just mean, maybe we should meet each other in a thought out way. Like we set a time and day--"

"Oh. Sure."

"How about Saturday, around eight?"

"Fine," Donna said. "That'd be great."

Their eyes locked, and Laurie leaned in towards her. She felt scared and a little nauseous; not to mention strangely elated. But it wasn't a kiss she leaned in for - Laurie helpfully picked a piece of lint off Donna's shirt.

"Thanks," she said. "See you then."

"Yeah."

Donna watched her walk away again. Her heart was somewhere in her throat.

*

When she was thirteen, she received her first real kiss. Her name was Brittany. She was older - well, five months. But, at the time, it seemed like an eternity, like Brittany was a hundred times more sophisticated than Donna.

And she was, in a way. She had moved from New York right before the beginning of eighth grade. She had plied everyone with stories of hanging out in Little Italy, going to see off-Broadway plays. It had seemed fascinating to Donna, and she didn't mind listening to her talk for hours.

That was probably part of the reason Brittany adopted her as her new best friend. They were inseparable. Sometimes, they'd walk through the halls with arms linked. A few people stared, but Brittany didn't care. It almost made Donna unconcerned.

It was around then that the dream began. It was something that Donna would've told Brittany, but she instinctively knew such things could've been said.

On the day of the kiss, they were on Donna's bed. Donna was sitting at the foot; Brittany was lying on her stomach, legs swinging in the air.

"Why is all this about Andrew McCarthy?" Brittany asked as she flipped through a magazine. "He won't be famous in six months."

"You don't know everything," Donna said, even though she thought Brittany did, in fact, know everything.

Brittany looked at her. "You hated 'Pretty in Pink.' What are you sticking up for him for?"

Donna shrugged. "Just wanted to be contrary."

Brittany slapped her on the knee. They both started laughing hysterically for a reason that could be explained. After the fits of giggling ended, Brittany sat up and moved closer to Donna.

Donna's heart jumped a little, the way it always did when Brittany was close to her. They fell into silence, their eyes locked. It was a comfortable silence - then again, everything with Brittany was comfortable.

"Can I ask you something?" she asked, breaking the silence.

"Sure," Donna replied.

"Have you ever kissed someone?"

"What? Why?" Donna asked, embarrassed.

"I just...I'm leading into something."

"No. I mean, not really. I mean...Why?"

"I want to know if I can kiss you," Brittany said. Her voice didn't falter. "And I just needed a lead-in question. Didn't want to jump right in there."

"Oh." Donna wasn't shocked. It should be Brittany, bright, fearless Brittany who would bring the underlying out to the surface.

"You don't have to--"

"Yes," Donna said.

And she did. Donna could tell kissing was another way in which Brittany was more sophisticated than she was. Her lips were soft, tender, pliant - and in those few seconds, Donna had never felt happier. It was like her dream, except real.

"I guess that was my first real kiss," Donna said softly.

"I guess so. How was it?"

"Amazing," she said her voice even lower in volume.

And Brittany kissed her again.

It became a routine - going to Donna's bedroom, talking for a while, kissing for a while longer. Donna didn't know if she should start using some word like 'girlfriend.' But it felt right, like some sort of natural progression of their friendship. So she didn't think they needed a title, per say. They were just Donna and Brittany, joined at the hip.

One day, she and Brittany were lying on the bed. Brit's head rested on her shoulder while her fingers drew patterns on her arm.

"I love you, you know," Brittany dropped casually.

"I love you, too," Donna declared just as matter-of-factly.

And they were happy.

*

Saturday rolled around - on this particular Saturday, Donna only had to work until five. This meant she had plenty of time to get ready to meet Laurie.

She chastised herself for acting like it was a date. This was just some time with a friend. She wasn't...

Donna did her best to dress like the antithesis of someone looking for an invite into bed. Her hair wasn't pulled up in any particular way; she wore jeans and a baggy sweatshirt; she didn't put on any makeup.

She wondered if attraction would peek through the mask of banality.

She decided not to consider it.

*

"Did you know that there isn't part of your I don't love?" Brittany asked.

"Now I do," Donna replied.

Brittany kissed her forehead lightly. It was one of countless days spent in Donna's bedroom, one that could've blended into any other.

Except it would eventually be unique.

Brittany kissed her way down Donna's cheek, finally meeting her lips with Donna's. The kiss deepened, and Donna started stroking Brittany's cheek with her fingertips. She was so wrapped up in the other girl, she never heard the door open. But she did hear--

"Oh my God."

Donna pulled away from her friend. Looking over, she saw her mother standing in the doorway. Her shock was apparent.

"Could you please leave, Brittany?" her mother asked, voice a model of controlled fury.

Brittany brushed her fingers against Donna's before leaving. Her mother closed the door as soon as Brittany was gone. She would always remember the look in her mother's eyes - anger, disappointment, confusion, and horror all rolled into one glare.

"Donna, what was that?" She sounded like she was going to cry.

Upon hearing her voice, Donna felt like crying herself. "We were..."

"I saw what it was. I don't want you to ever see her again, you understand me?"

"Mom--"

"Whatever she was making you do, I know it's not your fault. You're impressionable, and she's this...thing. I know it's not your fault, and I know that *that* isn't who you are. That is wrong." She paused. "You understand me, right? You can't see her again."

"I understand," Donna replied. And, for the first time since she met Brittany, Donna felt truly ashamed of herself.

"Good."

The next day at school, Donna found Brittany waiting at her locker. "Your mother called my parents, you know. She, apparently, was outraged at my mother's lack of outrage. Not to mention my father's outright dismissal of her."

"I can't talk to you," Donna said.

"Are you serious?"

"Yes. My mother won't let me."

"Your mother isn't here."

"I think she's right. We were just...it's not who I am."

"So I'm just a bad influence, I guess?" Brittany asked, voice accusatory.

"Maybe," Donna said as her eyes locked on her shoelaces.

"Look at me Donna." She did, and she almost wanted to defy her mother. But she knew she wouldn't. "There's nothing wrong with what we did. You're still my best friend, and I still love you. Come talk to me when you realize that."

After that, Donna threw herself into the world of boys and dating. Her mother was relieved, she supposed. Donna perfected a 'bright and happy' image, even if most of the time she was anything but.

She never talked to Brittany again.

*

When Donna entered, the bar was more crowded than she'd seen it before. But it was natural, she supposed, considering it was a Saturday. Laurie wasn't there yet, so Donna chose a stool that was in view of the door.

8:12 rolled around, and Laurie made her entrance. She was dressed casual, but had obviously put more effort into it than Donna. Tan capris hugged her hips, while a black shirt accentuated her torso. She wasn't wearing any makeup and her hair hung loosely against her face. But Donna still thought she looked incredible. She found herself chewing on her bottom lip as she ran a finger around the rim of her glass.

Laurie saw her and made her way over. Donna had an urge to meet her halfway and press her mouth against Laurie's. She suppressed it.

"You look nice," Donna commented.

"You do too," Laurie replied. Donna didn't know what to make of her lack of sarcasm. After all, Donna knew she couldn't really look great. She hadn't even tried.

"Thanks," Donna muttered.

An hour later, the chatter in the bar had increased twofold, and the jukebox had been playing the same song for twenty minutes. So, Laurie suggested, "Why don't we go back to my place? My head's about to explode."

"Sure," Donna shrugged. She could barely breathe.

*

Laurie's place was nice. Donna idly wondered if this was the same place she'd been living during the Sam scandal. But she couldn't bring that up. She hadn't even admitted to knowing about it, let alone being a co-worker/friend of one of the main players.

"Sit down," Laurie said. Donna did so, on the couch. "Want a beer? It's all I have in stock right now."

"That's fine," Donna said.

Laurie disappeared for a moment, then reemerged with two beers. She handed one to Donna, then sat down in a chair adjacent to the couch.

Donna felt partly relieved that Laurie didn't seem to be making any moves on her. Maybe she did seem normal after all. Or maybe Laurie just had no interest in her at all.

She hoped for the former, and secretly bet on the latter.

"You have a nice place," Donna commented. "My place is half this size, and I have to share it with a roommate."

"Such is the benefit of being in law," Laurie said.

Donna wondered if any of the rent was paid with leftover money from her escort days. And if it was right to feel so nervous in front of a woman. And if she should have let herself get into this position - the position of being alone with a woman who has drifted into her subconscious.

"Let's make a toast," Laurie said, "to the first time I've seen you outside a bar."

"It doesn't take much to get you to make a toast, does it?" Donna joked.

"This is an important occasion," Laurie insisted. "So, toast."

"Okay." Donna leaned forward to clink the neck of her bottle against Laurie's.

"Now, we can celebrate."

*

The time at Laurie's apartment wasn't that much different from the time in the bar. They still spent most of their time talking. And Donna still felt herself stuck in-between all these feelings she wanted to deny. But she did feel more comfortable being alone with her, strangely enough. Maybe it was good to be away from the possibly prying eyes of the outside world.

Maybe Laurie was breaking down the same defenses that Brittany had torn down. The defenses she hadn't realized existed until they were put up again.

"Wait here, okay?" Laurie said as she stood up.

"Where are you going?" Donna asked.

"To my bedroom. I'll be back in a sec."

Donna clenched up at the thoughts of what she could emerge with. Or without, for that matter. So, she was rather relieved when Laurie reappeared with a joint.

Laurie fell back in her chair. She took a toke that seemed overlong to Donna, but was probably just normal in the scheme of things. "Do you want any?" she asked, waving it in Donna's general direction.

Donna had tried pot once before, back in high school when she was slightly younger and much more impressionable. She'd only done it because her boyfriend of the moment, a varsity basketball player who dazzled everyone including Donna, had talked her into it. Later, she would find out that he made a point of dating all the freshman girls and telling his friends that he had slept with them.

In Donna's case, what he told his friends was true. But she would never admit that to anyone.

"You don't have to take it, Donna," Laurie said. "I'm not a pusher--"

"I know." She had coughed that first time, and she still remembers the boisterous laughter that followed. She also remembers Richard's fingers slipping up her skirt, and sharp, sudden pain.

"You alright, Donna?" Laurie asked, bemused expression on her face.

"I'm fine. Just...thinking." She didn't know why these flashes of memory were coming to her. Laurie wasn't Richard. If anything, she was Brittany.

Donna blinked and tried to shake away the memory.

"Come over here," Donna said. When Laurie did so, Donna took the joint from her. She inhaled and then, coughed loudly.

There were no bales of laughter, but Laurie did smile. "Not big into drugs, I guess?"

"Not really," Donna admitted, letting Laurie take back her joint.

"Me neither, really. It's just this and Tylenol. But, still, I do think this country should rethink its drug policy."

"Yeah," Donna said, although she wasn't that sure that she agreed. She didn't believe in putting drug users in jail, but she didn't necessarily want everything to be legal.

But she didn't want to complicate things with issues that she wasn't decided on. She didn't want to ruin whatever tenuous bond was linking them.

She put out the joint in her ashtray. Donna watched as she swirled the remainder of her beer around in the bottom of the bottle, craned her neck, and drank it down. She noticed the graceful length of her neck, considered sliding her mouth down it, and quickly looked away.

"You want another beer?" Laurie asked as she got up.

"Sure," Donna replied to her retreating frame.

Laurie returned a minute later, two fresh beers in hand. When she sat down, Donna could swear that her body was closer than it was before. But, she decided that it was her imagination.

Laurie drank a little, then placed it on the coffee table. Donna kept hers clutched in her hand, taking small sips. She felt insanely nervous, but she couldn't figure out why.

"Do you want me to go?" Donna asked.

"No." Laurie looked at Donna as if lobsters were coming out of her ears. "Why do you say that?"

"I don't know. Maybe you have an early morning."

"Tomorrow's Sunday. I don't have to go in early on Sunday. Well, sometimes I do. But I don't have to tomorrow."

"Oh. Right. Sunday. Days blend together sometimes for me."

"Hey, it's understandable."

Laurie smiled. Donna smiled back. And she felt a little more at ease, even if other things still twirled in the back of her mind.

*

By two-thirty, Donna was really relaxed. Not drunk, but...blissfully buzzed. She was having a good time, a better time than she'd had on most of her dates. She tried not to wonder what that meant.

She made some stupid joke about Tom Cruise, and Laurie laughed. And Donna wanted to run her hands through Laurie's hair.

"Are we going to be friends?" Donna asked.

"I think we are already friends. I mean, I *did* just laugh at that terrible joke."

"It wasn't terrible," Donna said, although she could no longer remember the content of the joke. "I'm just saying, other things could be going on here." She wasn't even sure where she was going at the time she started talking.

Laurie might have had an idea. But she didn't say anything to give Donna clue. "Like what?"

"I'm just saying... Plying me with alcohol and drugs, charming me with your...um, uh. 'Charms' is probably the best word to end this sentence, I guess."

"Maybe," Laurie smiled. "Although you didn't take the drugs."

"Still." She paused. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were trying to seduce me," she blurted out. She wished she had the ability to pluck words out of the air and put then back into her mouth as if they'd never been said. But she didn't.

Donna took a deep breath and waited for Laurie's reaction. If she laughed it off, everything could just move on in a friendly way. If she didn't, Donna had no clue what she was going to do.

She was laughing at first, and Donna felt a strange mix of relief and disappointment. "Well, maybe you don't know better," Laurie commented.

Then, Laurie leaned in and kissed her. Donna was frozen for a moment, unsure what to do. This was something she wanted and didn't want at the same time. But, after a few moments, resistance crumbled, and she let her lips react to the soft pressure of Laurie's mouth.

It was chaste at first, like a 'hello' between two old friends who hadn't seen each other in a while. But soon, Laurie's tongue slipped into her mouth. And soon, Donna's tongue reacted.

Soon, she couldn't pretend that nothing was happening.

Laurie's fingers began to stroke her neck. Soft and tender, and incredibly sensual. And Donna remembered she was kissing a woman. A woman who'd kissed who knows how many people, including Sam. A woman who was drunk and somewhat stoned.

But, most importantly, a woman.

"Stop," Donna said as she pulled away. "I'm...I work with Sam. Sam Seaborn," she said, just to say something that had nothing to do with the fact that Laurie just kissed her.

"That's not a problem," Laurie said evenly. "Unless you've come to spy on me. Or find out if I'm writing a book."

"No, I can't do this," Donna said. "I can't."

"Look, even if Sam's your friend, I can't see why he'd be pissed about you seeing me. We were friends more than anything--"

Donna stood up. "I can't, okay?"

Laurie shifted to the edge of the couch. "Is this another 'I can't be seen with you' thing? Because I'm not a hooker anymore, Donna. I don't think it's necessarily forbidden--"

"It wouldn't be. My personal life really isn't tabloid fodder anyway."

"Then what's the problem? Just tell me."

"I can't." She paused. "And I'm not here to spy on you. We just met by chance."

"I know." Laurie looked confused. "You thought I was serious."

"No," Donna answered. "This just isn't me." She stood up, and began to look for her purse amidst the mild mess in the living room. "I have to go," she declared when she found it.

"If you don't want to kiss me, that doesn't mean that you have to go."

Donna stopped for a moment. "Yeah, it does. I'm sorry, okay? I just can't do this."

She didn't hear Laurie answer; nor did she see the look of pure confusion on her face. Laurie had known there was something strange about Donna when she first spotted her at that bar. But she never knew that she would react with such horror at being kissed.

She never thought she'd run out like a fire had been lit underneath her. Part of her wished Donna would come back. None of her expected it.

*

When she arrived home that night, Donna felt like a fool. Why couldn't she ever make the right decision? Why did she jump into a million bad relationships, and balk at being with someone she'd actually clicked with?

Why couldn't she just say to herself, 'I'm attracted to a woman,' without feeling a pit of fear in her stomach?

Later, she went to bed alone. She thought of Laurie as she drifted off, and quickly told herself that she didn't want *that.* She wasn't the type of girl to fall for a woman.

She wasn't.

Such a door was closed to her. And she had no interest in opening it.

She'd never admit that she was a liar.

THE END

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