12: Work

Rae cooed contently as she woke up, embraced by familiar warmth. Warmth that surrounded her completely like a divine halo and promised her that everything was right in the world. Warmth that soothed any wounds inside and out like an omnipotent balm. A gentle, affectionate touch accompanied the brilliant warmth, loving her, assuring her that she was alive and well.

Almond-colored eyes drifted open to see Donnie. The chef was occupying her time and her mind by softly stroking silky ebony locks. Rae sighed and snuggled closer to Donnie. The taller woman pressed her hand to Rae's back, tenderly caressing the small of her back. Rae let loose a pleased mewl and a tiny smile settled on her face. The peace was broken when Donnie decided to share what was on her mind.

"I don't like the red marks on your neck," Donnie commented in a low voice. The hard look in her eye went unnoticed because Rae was trying burrow deeper into her chest, as if attempting to merge with her. The only thing keeping her from returning the gesture was the blaring maroon marks glaring up at her and marring on her lover's fair, beautiful skin.

"Donnie, please," Rae begged with a whimper, not wanting to travel that road yet. She wanted to stay blanketed in the coziness of her fantasy where everything was fine between her and her wife, where Donnie holding her lovingly was still an everyday occurrence, where Donnie still loved her from the bottom of her heart.

"I need you to tell me what happened because looking at these marks is making me crazy. My mind is drawing up a million situations for how they got there and the next one is always worse than the one before it. So, for my own peace of mind, tell me what happened or I'm going over to Audrey's place, waiting for her and stabbing her repeatedly," Donnie requested in a dead serious tone. Instinctively, she knew that Audrey harmed her beloved and a baser part of her wanted to do nothing more than slay that redhead bitch for daring to touch her mate!

Rae nodded, but she could not meet Donnie's eyes. She started talking while trying to make sure she did not cry, keeping her face buried in the safety of her lover's chest. She began her tale, talking about how Audrey was creeping her out by walking by the bedroom late at night and glaring at the baby. It got even worse when she knew Audrey would wander around outside the bedroom at night, just pacing in front of the door and sometimes trying to come in, but the door was always locked. She then went into how Audrey's drinking got out of control and how she tried to take what she wanted from Rae. And then how Audrey turned her fury on the baby, but how she did not let the drunken woman get to Donna. Her voice cracked through out the whole thing and as she got to the part where Audrey attempted to go after Donna, the tears started pouring out and her body started shaking.

"I was so scared!" Rae bawled, her voice barely a broken whisper. She felt like she was about to fall apart, but strong arms held her together.

"So, she choked the shit out of you because you wouldn't let her hurt the baby?" Donnie inquired just to be sure that she got the story right. She began contemplating how she could return the favor to Audrey.

"Uh…" Rae hesitated, not sure if that was what was going to happen.

"You're going to defend her again, aren't you?" the chef asked in a tense, exhausted tone.

Rae vehemently shook her head. "No. I really don't know what she was going to do to the baby, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't anything good. She looks at Donnie with such hatred, so I know she wasn't going to do anything good. I don't know if that's why she came at me either. She was already hurting me when she started squeezing my breasts, so maybe she just wanted to subdue me. I really don't know why she started choking me. I just know she did. I didn't know she was so unstable. She didn't seem so…well, nuts when we were just hanging out!"

Donnie rubbed Rae's back to help keep her calm. "It's okay. You didn't know, I didn't know. We both kinda fucked up here. I mean, I left you with her. I should've known something was fucked up with her. First off, I just didn't like the look in her eyes most of the time and Trisha fired her faster than most of her other assistants."

"I didn't even know she got fired…" Rae muttered. "I guess that explains all of her free time, though."

"Yeah, Trisha fired her after they finished the nursery. She said something about Audrey just wasn't right. She also said Audrey showed up to work drunk sometimes. That's why I asked you if you wanted me to do something when you said she was drinking."

"I didn't think it was going to get that bad. I didn't know her drinking was that bad. I guess she was really frustrated with me. Donnie…Audrey's in love with me, but I think of her as just as a friend. Well, not even that anymore. She really scared me last night," Rae admitted, borrowing deeper into the security of Donnie's body.

Donnie held her as if she was fragile and precious with tender care. "It's okay. First things first, we're going to go to the police and get this on record. Hopefully, we can at least get a restraining order if not press charges against Audrey. Then, we'll go to the house and get whatever you and Donna need and you can stay here for a while, so you're not alone in the house."

"I don't want to be alone in this apartment either!" Rae objected, going tense at the thought of being by herself.

The restaurant owner massaged Rae's back again, which caused her down. "You won't be here alone. I'm going to be here with you. I just don't want to chance you being in the house in case Audrey is really nuts and tries something. At least here, she doesn't know where you are, right?" She was going to kick herself if Rae told the redhead where she lived.

"Right. I never told her where you live. I knew you wouldn't want her to know and I didn't think she'd care anyway. Do we really have to go to the police?" the petite woman inquired curiously.

"Yes! I don't want her to think that she got away with this. She better hope I don't run into her or I'm going to beat the living hell out of her! I can't believe she did this to you," Donnie said, clutching into Rae tightly to keep herself calm now.

"I was surprised myself. It was scary when she jumped at me and for a minute I didn't even realize that she was choking me. Does my neck look really bad?"

Donnie was silent and her body tensed. Rae felt how stiff her spouse was and that let her know just how bad her neck had to look. When they got up to get ready for the day, Rae went into the bathroom and studied the mark. Thick crimson bands wrapped around her neck, bands that were caused by the fingers of someone that claimed to love her. That same person put a deep, nearly-black bruise on her cheek.

"Donnie would never do this to me…" Rae muttered as tears welled up in her eyes. She remembered at the hospital when she flinched because she thought that Donnie was actually going to hit her and she now realized just how stupid she had been. She had allowed Audrey to poison her mind so badly that she suspected the wrong person of possibly hurting her.

She sighed, shoulders slumping and feeling like the lowest of the low. She washed her face, hoping to wipe away the feeling and give herself a fresher start to the day. She put back on her clothes from last night and then walked out of the room, searching for Donnie. She found the chef in the kitchen, holding Donna, and pulling items out of the fridge while talking to the baby about what they were going to make for breakfast. Rae could not help smiling while watching the pair, taking in how much Donnie loved their daughter and how Donna seemed to hang onto her momma's every word, even though they knew she did not have a clue what Donnie was saying.

"Can I help with breakfast?" Rae requested, smile still lingering on her face. She really wished that she had a camera to capture the moment.

Donnie turned a little to see the petite woman. "Sure. Apparently, lil D is going to handle making the eggs while she tells me I just have to cut fruit," she joked, tickling the baby's cheek. Donna giggled, showing off a bright, toothless grin.

Rae laughed a bit too, feeling better. She helped a little bit before Donna started crying, wanting her own breakfast. Donnie was left to handle the adult meal while Donna had her own. After everyone was fed, Donnie put the baby into the car seat and ushered Rae out of the house. They were off to the police station.

Rae's face and neck were photographed, documenting the marks. Her statement was also taken, explaining what happened. She took out a restraining order at Donnie's insistence. Donnie also insisted that the police go to the house to make sure Audrey was not there. Rae was glad for Donnie's forceful personality because the cops really did not want to do it, apparently shy about getting into a domestic dispute as they put it. But, Donnie made them go up to the house, reminding them that what might seem like a simple domestic dispute could always end up as something worse. Besides, Donnie did not think of it as a "domestic dispute."

While the police scanned their home, Donnie considered having Rae press charges against Audrey. She glanced down at Rae as they waited outside in the car and decided against it. The ragged, exhausted look in deep brown eyes and worried lines that were etched into her creamy face were what caused Donnie to let it go. She did not want to drag Rae through anything further right now. Maybe if Audrey tried something else, she would press the issue, but for now, just documenting what happened was good enough for her.

Once the police made sure the house was clear, Donnie and Rae went inside. They grabbed some of their belongings and plenty of the baby's things. Then they returned to Donnie's apartment. The remainder of the day was spent cuddled together and relaxing, trying to forget the stressful ordeal that Audrey put them through.

"Donnie, what're we going to do?" Rae asked curiously, curling into Donnie's solid form. They were lying on the air mattress in the bedroom. Donna was sleeping in the playpen right next to them.

"Let's not think about it right now. Just relax a bit and we'll figure it out later," Donnie answered, resting her head on top of the smaller woman's soft ebony mane.

"Okay…" Rae sighed and nuzzled Donnie's neck. It was hard to resist the temptation of placing a kiss to the wonderful skin she was pressed into, but she managed. "Um…Donnie…?" she said the name with such uncertainty and a little quiver shook the name.

"Yes?"

"Are we still getting a divorce? I still love you and I know you still love me."

Donnie sighed this time and kissed the top of Rae's head. "Babe, let's worry about everything later on. I just want you to relax and heal up. I'm going to be here for you no matter what."

Rae nodded and decided that was enough for her right now. She fell asleep against Donnie, who was not sure what she was going to do. Right now, all she wanted to do was protect Rae, so she suspected that was definitely going to put any divorce proceedings on hold. Once that was out of the way, she would have to take a step back and figure out what was best for her.

It took a couple of weeks before they got around to talking about anything. Rae worked up the courage to bring things up again after she watched Donnie put Donna down for her nap. After that, Donnie flopped down on the bed because she liked watching Donna sleep for a few minutes. Rae ambushed her and dropped down on the taller woman. The master chef grunted on impact, but embraced Rae around the waist.

"I get the feeling you want my attention," Donnie remarked with an amused smile.

Rae was silent for a second. What she really wanted was to lean down and steal a kiss from Donnie's tempting lips, but she did not. She was not sure if Donnie still considered that they had that type of relationship, even though they shared a bed every night, held each other, and touched whenever possible. Sometimes, Donnie even kissed her, but only on the top of the head or the cheek. They had not done anything romantically intimate.

"Donnie, I need you to tell me what're we going to do. I've had a lot of time to think about things and I really think I can explain what happened to me. Are you willing to listen and then we figure out what we're going to do?" Rae asked.

"I'll listen if we can sit up. You've got your elbow in my ribs," Donnie answered.

Rae nodded and moved off of Donnie. The chef eased back on the bed, so that her back was against the wall. Rae sat at her side instead of draping herself on Donnie like she would have done. Donnie glanced to the side and considered grabbing Rae up, but she thought that Rae might need the space to get through what she wanted. Once they were settled into their positions, Rae began speaking.

"You know, when Donna was born after you left the hospital, I had a talk with Spain. She gave me her thoughts on what happened with me and Audrey and I'm starting to agree with her take on things in a way. When Audrey came along, she was my first friend in a long time and she was like everything that I had given up when I started going out with you all rolled up into one person. I opened up to her in ways that I was sort of scared to do with you, scared that I might chase you away. So, I talked with my friend, since you know, you should be able to tell friends things, but Audrey used what I said to mess with my mind. I'm not making excuses, I shouldn't have listened to her. I shouldn't have trusted her, but I wanted a friend, I wanted something so badly. Something that was mine. Something that let me know I still had a life. I'm guessing her plan somewhere along the line was to get me to leave you and go out with her, so she kept hinting that you were probably cheating on me, that you were just going to leave me anyway, that you're just a spoiled brat and so much bullshit.

"Anyway, really, I clung to Audrey because she was something that was mine. It wasn't that I was in love with her, but she was mine. My friend. The first thing I had had in years that was my own, for me, and wasn't given to me by you. I gave up everything for you, Donnie, and I don't think I really wanted to, but I thought you wanted me to…" Rae cast her eyes downward, feeling shame. A sniffle tore out of her throat, but she held in any tears that might try to fall.

"Why would you think that?" Donnie inquired, very confused. Her face scrunched up as she searched her wife's gaze for something to explain why are would feel such a way. "Okay, yes, I hated you working at that piece of shit café-diner-whatever-the-fuck-it was, but if you liked it, I didn't want you to quit."

"Yet you kept offering me a job at Donnie's. To me, I thought you wanted to keep an eye on me."

Donnie's eyes opened wide with disbelief. "I kept offering you a job because I wanted you some place safer than where you were working and some place with better pay!"

Rae shrugged a little. "I'm just telling you what I thought at the time and why I was open to such ridiculous suggestions from Audrey. When we moved in together, you kept saying how you wished I was around more. To me, after having to deal with other girlfriends that have plenty of money, I figured you wanting me around more often meant I needed to quit my little crappy job."

"Babe, not only were your former girlfriends rich bitches, but they were also control-freaks. You really thought I was a control-freak? Why the hell did you love me in the first place then?" Donnie asked, scratching her head.

Rae frowned for a moment, wrinkling her forehead. She leaned over a little and put her hands around Donnie, wanting to take away the pain that she knew she was causing. Tiny hands caressed a flat abdomen and Donnie sighed. Once the taller woman relaxed, Rae continued the discussion.

"Donnie, whatever notions of you I had in my head, you were still one of the sweetest people I have ever met. You're still the sweetest person I have ever met and you make it so easy to love you with every piece of me. But, I read you wrong, going by what my past girlfriends wanted and reading those things into your little words and gestures."

Donnie nodded and frowned a little, casting her eyes to look at the far wall. "So, basically, what happened to us was really inevitable. Eventually, you were going to… I guess rebel." Hazel eyes then turned sharply to focus on the ebony-haired woman. "But, sweetheart, I really don't mind if you have friends. I'm sorry you gave your friends up before. I didn't know why you did it and I really should've asked, but I was just happy to have you around more," the chef replied, almost as if she was apologizing.

"If you like being around me so much, Donnie, why did you start staying at the restaurant so much more this past year?" Rae asked curiously, eyes begging to know why her lover practically abandoned her for the famous eatery.

Donnie chuckled a little. "Oh, that. Man, I didn't think that would cause this amount of trouble, but I was setting things up to make sure I would have to be there a lot less once Donna was born. You must've notice I haven't gone anywhere in the past two weeks."

"Oh…" Rae's expression dropped and she had that low feeling again. "You know…I thought you were just putting your life on hold because of me. I felt a little bad about it actually," she replied in a small voice.

"Rae, you are my life and you have been for the past five years. Now, you and lil D are my life and you always will be. I'm taking a slightly more hands-off approach to the restaurant because of that. I've worked out how to get things done even with being there less. I want to be with you and Donna. I want to be there when Donna sits up for the first time, takes her first step, says her first word, gets her library card, hits her first homerun on a softball team, wins her first spelling bee, has her first date. I want to be here for her whole life. I want to be here for our next kid and all of that too. I won't let the restaurant or the café stop that," Donnie vowed in a strong, even tone.

"I'm so sorry, Donnie!" Rae cried, burying her face in her hands and she started sobbing. "I should've had faith in you! It's just that I felt like nothing was mine. Even when you said you were going to take the baby, I just kept thinking that you could because you have everything and I have nothing. It was like I was just your possession and you could do whatever you wanted while I had to do everything you wanted."

Donnie wrapped her arms around Rae and held onto her. "I wish you would've said something sooner."

"I know I should've. Please, Donnie, give me another chance. I'm sorry for everything. Just give me another chance," she begged, speaking into the cotton fabric of her love's tee-shirt.

"It's okay. We'll make it through all of this," Donnie promised.

-8-8-8-8-

"Damn, Don, it feels like I haven't seen you in ages!" Tegan declared as she, Spain, and French all entered the new house. They were all surprised when Donnie moved out of her apartment a couple of months after Rae and Donna moved in with her. They did know it was a sign that the couple were trying to work things out, though. It eased their minds to know that the relationship was not beyond repair, but Tegan was even more weary of Rae now.

"We've been way too busy around here and lil D is such a handful," Donnie replied, bouncing the three-month old baby in her arms. Donna yawned and then suckled her pacifier, not paying her mama much mind.

"Oh, she has gotten so big," Spain cooed, reaching out for the baby. Donnie handed Donna over while Tegan and French looked at Spain as if she had grown another head. The doctor noticed. "What? The Amazon can't like a baby?" she inquired with an arched eyebrow.

"No! 'Course not!" Tegan and French said, even though they both did think it looked just a little weird for Spain to be holding such a little creature.

"Just be careful with her, Spain. She likes grabbing for things that she shouldn't, like your glasses," Donnie cautioned her friend, noticing just how closely her daughter was eyeing the face of the woman holding her.

Spain nodded. "Good to know since French has been threatening to skin me alive if I ruin another pair," she replied.

French put her hands on her narrow hips. "Hey, no one should go through three pairs of glasses in a year if they're not a ten-year-old child."

Spain glanced away, looking thoroughly scolded for all of two seconds. Tegan and Donnie laughed at the giant's reaction. Once the look passed, the doctor turned her attention back to the baby, who was still watching Spain's face—possibly looking for an opportunity to reach for her specs.

"Come on in. I'll give you guys the nickel tour since we have some time to kill before dinner," Donnie explained, waving her friends deeper into her humble home.

The new house was very different from the old house that Donnie owned. It was a ranch-style house and smaller than the other, but it seemed much more like Donnie than the other one did. It was impressive, but it did not scream "wealth and status" in loud tones like the other one did. It was a more simple, warm style. The furniture were done in light colors and light wood. There was a little artwork up, but definitely not as much as the old house had, and definitely items that Donnie and Rae truly liked, such as woodland scenes.

"Donnie, this place really is way more you," Tegan commented with an approving nod.

"You think so? I didn't have any say in decorating it, but then again, I didn't have any say in the other house either," Donnie pointed out with a little laugh and shrug.

"Your mom did your other house, right?" Spain asked, adjusting the baby in her arms since Donna seemed to be falling asleep now.

"Well, she didn't set foot in there, but she did tell me everything to buy and like an idiot I listened. I thought she might visit or something, but that never happened. Whatever I didn't follow up on, Trisha just filled in based on what I was already doing. It was almost like living with my mother again from the way the place looked. Just a little creepy," Donnie replied.

The friends nodded and decided against saying anything about Donnie's mother since this was supposed to be a pleasant, friendly visit. They went through the house fairly quickly. There were five bedrooms of impressive size in the house, a small office with plenty of books and a desktop computer, two and a half bathrooms, a large basement that they were planning to turn into a game room, and of course, the kitchen was the most breathtaking room in the place. There was a pool out back, but it was too cold to go for a swim. After the tour, the crew settled into the living room and Spain put the baby down on a blanket that was laid out on the carpet just for her.

"So, where's Rae?" Spain asked curiously.

"She's at work. She should be here in a little while. She called just before you lot showed up, looking for you guys," Donnie explained, leaning back into the beige sofa.

"How's she liking her new job?" French inquired with a smile. She remembered how excited Rae had been when she got a job. It was not the most glamorous or high-paying job in the world, but one could not help share in her happiness. Rae always beamed and glowed whenever she talked about the fact that she was working again.

"She's loving it. She's good at it too. I've never brought so many books in under an hour in my life," Donnie remarked with laugh.

"Well, you're her wife, so I think you're obligated to do that," Spain teased.

"That and every time I go in there, she swears there's this book I'd like. Damn it, she's always right!" Donnie pretended to whine.

"Rae's always been like that when it comes to you, so I don't know why you're so surprised," Spain pointed out.

"I'm not. That woman knows everything about me. I'm glad she's liking her job at the bookstore. She seems a lot happier now, even if it's just part-time," Donnie said. Her wife had been more relaxed and smiled much easier now that she was working. Rae even seemed to have more energy and was more open, which Donnie attributed to the job because it gave Rae something to talk about when she came home, which led to them having long conversations about any and everything.

"I can't believe you actually took her back after all of the crap she's put you through. I don't understand how you can forgive her," Tegan said, shaking her head in bewilderment.

"Well, for one, I'm partially to blame by telling her who she loved in the first place. But, mostly, I love her, Tegan. I'm deeply, madly, honestly in love with my wife. I always will be. I'm miserable without her and you know that. And she's in love with me. Why should we break apart if we're in love with each other and want to be together? We both want this badly. We're working through things, which is why she went out and got the job. We're going to do some couples' therapy too once everything is settled," Donnie explained.

"What's this thing with the job have to do with anything anyway?" French asked curiously.

"Rae felt like she didn't have her own life before, like she was just a possession of mine since everything was mine…technically anyway. I mean, for me, I feel like everything was ours, but I did buy it all, so she didn't feel the same. This is a step toward her getting a life of her own instead of being an installment in mine. One of the things we're going to work on in therapy," Donnie answered.

"Has she made any new friends yet?" Spain inquired with an arched eyebrow.

"She's a little trigger shy about that so far. She's still a little freaked about Audrey and everything," Donnie replied. That got a round of understanding nods.

"Well, at least she's okay with being away from you now. Before, you said she was sort of glued to you, right?" Spain asked.

Donnie nodded. "The first few days, she wouldn't let me out of her sight, except to shower. Then, she got really shook up when we saw Audrey outside of the old house not too long ago when we went to make sure we got everything we wanted from there. She's far from okay and the only reason she's good to go to work is because the café isn't too far away, so some of the employees go by every few minutes and check on her for me. We got Rae a new number for her phone and everything, but I think she's going to be okay."

"She's getting therapy for that, right?" Tegan asked, although it was not really a question. Despite the fact that she was never Rae's biggest fan, and that did not change with Rae reconciling with Donnie, she did feel some compassion toward Rae since the woman had gotten beaten up and she put herself in danger to protect Donna. She did not think that Rae deserved the beating and she respected Rae for putting her body out there for the baby.

"Duh. It's also something we're going to have to work on in couples' therapy as soon as we find someone we both like. I never thought Rae would be the picky one about a therapist, but trying to find someone for both of us has been crazy. Thankfully, she's fine with her therapist, even though I don't care for him much," Donnie said.

"Why not? Rae makes him sound like a really good guy and a lot of help," French said.

Donnie shrugged. "I might just be being paranoid at this point and that probably is it. I just don't like the way he looks at me sometimes. It makes me feel like he's blaming me for Rae's problems and I don't mean that in a really bad away. But, it seems like his eyes are saying to me that Rae really shouldn't need therapy and she should be able to talk to me about this stuff. Sitting in on a few sessions, I can see he doesn't blame me and Rae says he never does, but still sometimes when he sees me, I really feel like he's calling me a bad wife in his head."

Tegan scoffed. "That sounds like paranoia all right. No therapist is going to actually say they're not needed," she joked, earning a few light chuckles from her friends.

"So, have you seen Audrey lately or heard from her?" French asked, letting a shudder rip through her. Just thinking about Audrey gave her the creeps now that she knew what the woman was capable of, so she could imagine the horrors that Rae went through.

"Aside for the thing at the old house, she walked past the restaurant one day when I was there, but I'm not paying her any mind. We've got it on record and she hasn't really tried anything. I did call the police and everything. She was drunk outside the restaurant that day, so the cops took her in for public drunkenness. I really think that's her problem. She just drinks too fucking much," Donnie explained with a shrug.

"I think you're simplifying her problem," Spain commented in a dry tone.

"You might be right, but I'm a simple person outside of cooking and management," Donnie reminded them.

They nodded in agreement with that. They decided to let the matter drop since there was nothing that they could do with Audrey, except stay on the watch for her if they were around Rae. Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of the front door opening and closing.

"Babe," Rae called out.

"We're in the living room," Donnie replied.

Rae walked in and joined the sit-down on the living room carpet. She leaned down to kiss the baby before giving Donnie a kiss. They all spoke for a little while longer before Donnie served dinner. They all sat down at the table and joked, and laughed, and felt at ease.

-8-8-8-8-

Donnie was at the restaurant for her one day of work that she always tried to get in for the week; lately, she had been up at the restaurant just a few hours a week, mostly because she could. Everything ran smoothly without her having to hover over everyone. Usually when she came up now, it was to work in the kitchen because it was still her passion and she liked cooking for the restaurant just as much as she enjoyed cooking for her family; she was allowed to cook at home more often now.

The restaurant owner was packing up and getting ready to go, wanting to see her wife and child again. She stepped out of the office and was going to go out the front door, but as she walked to the main hall of the restaurant, she spotted a familiar profile; one that she had not seen almost a year.

Audrey was in the restaurant and Donnie was almost ready to call the police, but then she noticed that Audrey was not alone. The redhead was sitting with another woman and they were smiling at each other; hell, Audrey's eyes were practically sparkling and Donnie could see that from a distance. Audrey was paying the other woman complete attention and Donnie decided to leave her be.

She hoped that meant that Audrey had moved on since Rae had been avoiding her for a year. Plus, Rae had gotten on with her life, now having a life to get on with. She and Donnie were also getting on with their life, together, with Donna of course.

-8-8-8-8-

The end.

A/N: Thank you to everyone who read the story. I hope you all enjoyed it and I am sorry if the ending feels a bit weak. I just was not sure what else to do.