Sorry for the hiatusisation. Here's a new chapter to make up for it.

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Alex is jolted awake later that night, the reason for her awakening fleeing quickly from her mind the moment she tries to sort her disoriented mind out. She wonders where Riley is while reaching for her cell-phone to check the time.

Two-thirty AM.

She's confused, looking at her watch to confirm that it is, indeed, such a late hour – or, rather, early – and that she's slept through dinner without Jared coming to wake her. The space beside her on the mattress feels cold and empty, and looking over she sees that it is empty; the pillows untouched, the sheets un-rumpled save for a few minor creases where her arm has fallen.

For a few minutes she is completely at a loss to explain this strange turn of events, and stares at the drawn curtains as if they will help her figure out what the hell is going on. But there is nothing that speaks to her, only the low trickling of water from rain falling into the gutter.

Something from English pops inanely into her thoughts – pathetic fallacy enhances the atmosphere of doom and failure, symbolic of how everything will come crashing down. "There is a steady murmur of rain, but it is slackening and stops soon after the scene begins..."

The Glass Menagerie. Then, suddenly, like a brilliant shaft of light that falls onto the murky recesses of her clarity, Alex remembers.

She hasn't slept through dinner. It was actually really good, she grudgingly remembers, roast beef and garlic potatoes made by Jordan. Jared didn't come to wake her because he fell asleep long before she even went close to her bed, and the mattress is cold because she's the only one who's been in the queen-size for almost three weeks.

Alex switches the light on, wincing a little as the light floods the room, but she can't sleep now. She crosses over to the bookshelf and retrieves the one thing that has never failed to remind her of Riley, and begins to read.

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NOVEMBER 8, 2005

Riley laughs at her from her comfortable reclining position on her ergonomic chair. Alex fleetingly notes the irony that Riley is the one with the chair whilst Alex is the one doing all the work.

"Come on, 'lex, it's not hard at all. Just read the sentence once or twice and then say it out loud. Can you picture the words on the paper? Like, the position of them. It'll make it easier."

She glares at Riley. "Easy for you to say, you freaking like this boring ass play."

A smirk from the chair. "It's a rather appreciable play," Riley replies in a posh British accent, getting up and going over to where Alex is sprawled on the bed. "It's got a wit to suit all occasions. You just don't like it because it's real."

"Don't quote that crap at me," Alex snorts. "The only thing that's real in this stupid thing is Jim not coming through for Laura."

"Oh, my cynical lover." Riley plonks herself next to Alex, skimming her hand lightly over her girlfriend's butt. "Makes me wonder how we've lasted this long."

Alex arches her eyebrow at Riley. "Because—" she begins, flipping to the beginning of the play, "—of your delicate cup-like breasts, slim, tapering waist, rich, creamy thighs, eyes like wood-smoke in autumn, fingers that soothe and caress like strains of music, body as powerful as Etruscan sculpture."

She grins with pleasure as Riley cracks up laughing, rolling over the mass of paper in her mirth. "You sneaky little shit!" Riley exclaims between bouts of laughter, "I'm so proud of you."

"See, I can quote stuff too."

Riley tackles Alex and straddles her, running her fingers through Alex's soft blonde hair. "I love you," she says softly, leaning forward to kiss her, and when she is so close to Alex's face so that Alex can see how her lip-gloss makes her lips sparkle so, she whispers, "But I hate that passage so much, it's kind of ironic, don't you think?"

Alex kisses her. "I thought it was 'rather appreciable'."

"Not that part. It's so stupid. I know he's satirising the magazine and stuff but he really didn't have to do it so OTT-ly." Riley pulls back. "And I bet you that no-one knows what the heck wood-smoke in autumn looks like."

"Or what a body like an Etruscan sculpture is."

A wolfish grin spreads across Riley's face. "Ah, that's where you're wrong," she says, her low voice close to Alex's ear, "It's something you get from athletic sex."

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OCTOBER 2, 2005

The first time they have sex it's really… nice, and Alex feels like Riley is the only one she'll ever want to touch her like that. But, surprisingly, it's nothing groundbreaking, contrary to what she's read, what she's heard, what she's watched. The satiated pull in her body leaves her smiling at random times of day, and even three days later when she's glancing over at Riley in Classics, scribbling intently in her book, Alex catches herself with that self-satisfied smirk.

The second time is different. They're at Riley's house, putting the finishing touches on her bedroom walls. There's no-one at home except for James, the butler (typical butler name), and Riley practically drags Alex up to the large room where paint, brushes, plastic sheets and two paintball guns wait for them.

Alex notices the paintball guns. "You ran out of brushes?"

"No." Riley laughs. "Come on, let's get started. The sooner we finish the sooner we get to the fun part." She grabs the brush and dips it enthusiastically into the paint tray and beings to cover the gaps. Alex, amused, follows suit.

It's a good two hours before every bit they missed before has been covered, and Alex appreciates how well the baby blue goes with the white furniture. "I still don't get why you got everything in white. It's a bit sterile, don't you think?"

Riley comes up and stands a little behind her. "I like sterile. Plus, it won't matter once we're done."

"We're not done?"

"Oh, no way. Far from it." Riley leads her out to the balcony and they sit side by side, facing the beach. "We'll get started again once it all dries. And get you fresh and pretty for phase two."

Alex snorts. "Speak for yourself. And stop quoting Glass Menagerie at me, even if it's paraphrasing."

"Unappreciative git."

"You love it."

"I do," Riley admits, taking Alex's hand and kissing her knuckles. "I love it very much. I love you, Alex Parker."

Alex, momentarily stunned by Riley's first ever serious admission of love for her, searches her girlfriend's eyes for confirmation that she isn't joking. "I'm not joking," Riley tells her, tightening her grip on Alex's fingers. "And you don't have to say it back, because I know we haven't been going out for very long, and I know it's also real sudden. But I love you more than…" Riley pauses to think, then says, "I have nothing to compare it to, because I haven't loved anything as much as I love you."

Sitting in silence for a little while, Riley lays her head on Alex's shoulder as they look out at the setting sun. "I love you too," Alex says later, so quietly that Riley almost misses it. Their fingers, still intertwined, tighten once more as they kiss against the backdrop of Liston Harbour beach.

"My life is a movie cliché," grins Riley, her forehead resting against Alex's, when she realises the picturesque environment around them. "But I couldn't ask for anything better. Let's go in and make out some more."

"In paint fumes? Somehow, I feel a little apprehensive of you getting me high… who knows what you might do?"

Riley leers in response. "I think you know." She glances up at the freshly painted walls and judges that it should be dry by now. "I also think we should start Phase Two. Come on!" she exclaims, reminding Alex of a little girl who has been asked to do something in return for her favourite candy, and hauls her girlfriend to her feet, practically dragging her into the room.

"Whoa! Okay, okay, I'll make out with you… didn't know you felt so strongly about it," Alex jokes.

"Nooo," Riley drawls. "This is going to be awesome, and fun, and like a million other synonyms for excellentness."

It turns out that Riley's awesome, fun and excellent plan for Phase Two is to load the paintball guns with primary coloured paintballs, i.e red, blue and yellow, and pepper her freshly painted walls with them. Alex is understandably sceptical about the entire "operation", but a mere five minutes in, she thinks she might be having even more fun than Riley is. About half an hour in, things are a bit… messy, but everything's turned out better than Riley could have hoped for. Turning the gun on Alex, she aims for a denim-clad buttock and fires.

Alex yelps, her expression turning from bewildered to challenging. "Is that how this is going to be?" she asks, her eyebrows raised, then narrowing her eyes at Riley and aiming for the other girl's body. "Come on, then!" she yells, firing at Riley a bit spastically because she's started running around the room in a bid to not get hit. Riley takes off after her, getting in a few good shots at the expense of her feet, but both girls have to stop after a while because Alex has shot Riley's left breast.

"Oh, god, that hurts," Riley groans, clutching her chest theatrically. "I think you got me squarely in the tit."

Her girlfriend can't help but laugh amidst her concern. "I am so sorry. Are you okay?"

Riley looks put out. "Do I look okay?"

"I can't tell, your boob isn't exactly uncovered."

The leer returns. "Well, let's find out." Riley pulls her shirt off, and unclasps her bra, sitting half-naked on the paint-spattered sheets with Alex unable to contain her giggling. "Hm. No bruising yet, but this is still fresh… I think you need to kiss it better."

Before Alex can say or do anything, the door opens and Riley's dad walks in, halfway through explaining that he has to go out and can't stay for long after dinner, would it be okay if they postpone--

"Oh, jeez!" he exclaims upon seeing Riley sprawled on the floor, Alex sitting over her. "I… am so sorry. Um, we'll just talk later, hon, bye!"

The door slams shut in his haste and Alex stares after him at the wooden oak, partially in shock and horror. Again, before she can say or do anything, the laughter escapes her and soon the both of them are doubled over, cracking up over what had just happened.

Sometime between the laughing and gasping for breath, Alex's eyes fall onto Riley's toned body, borne from years of weekly gym sessions and general fitness -- which is Riley's euphemism for athletic sex. A spark-plug in her body ignites a feeling unknown to her before this; suddenly she feels as if she needs that sexual contact with Riley, and if she doesn't have it soon… well, she doesn't want to think about that.

Riley catches the look in her eye, but isn't prepared for the velocity and ferocity with which Alex hooks her fingers into Riley's belt loops and hauls her up to face her properly. Soon they are engaged in the most heart-racing kiss that they've ever had; soon the 'bruise' that Riley sustained from their pseudo-fight is forgotten and accompanied by a considerable number of new ones; soon they are lying in a sweaty, tangled fusion of limbs, Alex still with that devilish gleam in her eye, Riley unable to catch up.

"Well," Riley comments dryly, running a finger up and down Alex's torso, "I gotta get my dad to barge in more often."

Alex buries her face in Riley's neck, a bit mortified at the sudden onslaught of lust she feels. "I have no idea what the hell brought that on."

"Who cares? That was crazy hot. We should do it again… but not now. I'm too dead. I think I might literally have had my brains fucked out." She can feel Alex's smile against her skin, and she falls in love with the girl she just confessed her love to all over again.

"I would do anything for you."

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