This comes from the 64 Damn Prompts on LiveJournal (by rashaka). I will, most likely, be working through all 64, because I can't bear to leave such a lovely thing unfinished. I will also include the song that helped me write it/find inspiration/that I thought fit the mood.

Prompt 32: Linger

Music: Dream, by The Cranberries

"You know, you will have to actually put this album out someday," Marisol pointed out in what she probably thought was a reasonable voice.

Vanessa thought it was more of a "do this or I'll pound your head in with my national kendo trophy" kind of tone.

Even so, she only offered a shrug in response, still bent over the battered notebook on the table. Her pencil tapped a staccato rhythm on the wood, then paused, shifted to the beat of the song she was considering, and lifted. With a short nod to herself, she marked out a series of notes and a string of lyrics in shorthand, then sat back and took a sip of her coffee, looking faintly pleased.

Marisol, on the other hand, looked centimeters from homicide.

"One line?" she demanded, the pitch of her voice rising in tandem with her temper. "One line? Is that all you're going to do today? What do I say to the record company? What do I say to my agency? One line?"

Dragging footsteps on the stairs interrupted her before her rant could get any louder, and Trip hauled himself into the kitchen, brushing his rat's-nest of hair out of his face. He made a beeline for the coffeepot, but managed a wave at Marisol as he went.

"Lay off, Sanchez. Ya can't rush genius, right? And after the last three singles we put out all went straight to number one, I think the agency'll give us a bit o' leeway. 'Specially considering they were all from the same album."

If anything, that made Marisol bristle more. "Leeway? You're supposed to be producing songs, not lazing around a big house all day, hamming it up for the fans! Your next album is scheduled to begin recording in four weeks, and Vanessa only has a handful of songs done! Forgive me if I feel a bit of urgency about you guys keeping your contract!"

Vanessa sighed and pushed away from the table, rubbing her eyes. "Marisol, I know you're worried, but stop. We're doing the same as we always do. You'll get your songs in time, and we'll meet the deadline. Just…lay off a bit, okay?"

For a moment, Marisol wavered, as though unsure of whether to do just that. Then, with an almost visible shift, the childhood-friend side of her took over for the professional-agent part, and she leaned right into Vanessa's face, teeth bared.

"Fine," she hissed, eyes narrowing. "But I swear, Vanessa, if you take even one hour more than three weeks and six days, you're dead." With a low growl, she spun on her sensible heel and stalked out of the room. A moment later, the slamming of the front door made the whole house tremble on its foundation.

"That went well," Diego said in amusement, peering around the corner of the banister.

"Coward," Kelly muttered, kicking him the rest of the way into the kitchen.

"You didn't come out, either," Rick pointed out, helping his friend off the floor and then shoving Trip away from the coffee to get his own.

Now that Marisol was gone, the entire band was congregating, Vanessa noted with some amusement. Timothy was still conspicuously absent—probably worried that Marisol would come back. Rick and Diego had waited her out, and Kelly had probably been sat on to keep her from making a scene, as she and Marisol clashed more often than not. Mashiro was also absent, probably bugging Timothy. She had probably dragged Linda with her, because Marisol was not appreciative of the other woman's attempts at flirting. Even the ever-courteous Hope was missing, safely ensconced in her studio with the artwork for their next album. Trip was probably the only one stupidly brave enough to risk their agent's wrath—either that, or he had drawn the short straw this morning.

"Short straw?" Vanessa asked, betting it was the latter.

"Yep," Trip confirmed, grimacing faintly. "Kelly made me come down. If it'd been up to me, I would have left you to Sanchez's mercy."

"Asshole." Vanessa rolled her eyes, but couldn't dredge up more than the most basic annoyance. That was Trip, through and through. With a sigh, she grabbed her jacket off the back of the chair and shrugged into it, stuffing her pen into one pocket and the notepad into another before she jammed a hat onto her head and a scarf around her neck.

Trip watched the contained violence of her movements with equanimity, well used to Vanessa's ways. Settling in the deserted chair, he slurped his coffee and raised a lecherous eyebrow. "Gonna go and molest your muse again, honeybee? When are you gonna introduce the rest of us?"

Vanessa flipped him off and snorted. "Yeah, right, bastard. She wouldn't be a muse if I paraded her in front of all you freaks, she'd just be traumatized. For life. See you later."

As she headed for the door, Timothy, just rounding the corner, froze. "Whoa. Whoa. What if the Titanium Tomboy comes back?" He looked just shy of panicked, which wasn't the best look on him, but which only made Vanessa snicker.

"Tell her I left for somewhere far, far away, and not to look for me." She tossed the wide-eyes bassist a smirk. "Then just point her at Trip and get out of the way."

Timothy snorted at that, and Trip wailed, but Vanessa just waved and strode out the front door, into the winter morning. The wind was fierce, biting, and Vanessa hunched against it, drawing her collar up higher and cursing under her breath. She stuffed her hands into her pockets, only removing them to flip Trip—who was making faces at her through the window—the bird, and headed for the small coffee shop at the end of the street. It was a cheerful place, neat and warm and homey, flooded with the scent of espresso and chocolate. Best of all, it was usually empty at this time of day, and Vanessa would get the place—and her muse—all to herself.

When she pushed open the door, the bell jingled brightly, and it made her smile. Already she could feel the threads of a melody whispering through the back of her mind, something sweet and lovely, with a heavier, brighter note underneath, and her hand slipped down to her notebook automatically. The words came more slowly, more gradually, a soft counterpoint to the joy that lit up the barista's face when she saw who had come in.

"Vanessa," she said with a swift, small smile, still tentative even after all this time. "Why didn't you stay at home? The weather is nasty."

Vanessa smiled in return, taking a seat at the polished counter. "Hey, Rachel," she greeted, leaning over and giving the smaller woman a quick, soft kiss that made Rachel flush dark red. The singer only smiled at the reaction. "Sorry, but I wanted to see you, maybe write a bit while I'm here."

Rachel looked her over for a moment, something so utterly gentle in her eyes that it made Vanessa's chest ache in a good way, to see it there and to know that she had put it there. Then the black-haired woman smiled that sweet, shy smile that Vanessa had fallen in love with, and murmured, "As—as long as you're happy, Vanessa." She reached across the gleaming counter, tentative and nearly timid until Vanessa caught her hand, twining their fingers together.

In the background, the soft strains of the radio spun through the silence, a woman's rich alto singing, supported by a weave of two other voices, one male and one female.

"Open up your heart,

I'll set you free,

Open up your eyes

And can't you see?

Never been so sure,

Gift from above,

Never been so sure

That this was love."

Vanessa cocked her head slightly, listening, and chuckled, squeezing Rachel's hand a little tighter.

"That's your song," she murmured. "The first one I ever wrote in here, and I wrote it for you, even though you didn't know my name or my face. My muse."

Rachel laughed a little, too, and leaned forward to kiss Vanessa delicately, shyly. She was still blushing, but that was normal. This was normal, for them. When they drew apart, Rachel met Vanessa's eyes with that core of solid, immovable steel that had first drawn her in and smiled, gripping her fingers in return.

"Only to you, Vanessa," she said, shaking her head in a mix of disbelief, exasperation, and affection that he had become familiar with ever since this bright, fierce, sharp woman stumbled into her shop muttering about deadlines and crazy agents, and had simply…never left. She couldn't say that she ever wanted her to, either.

"Good," Vanessa said firmly, and then drew back, pulling out her notebook and shrugging out of her coat. "Do you have any of that Turkish coffee you made last time?"

Rachel turned to get it, humming along to the radio under her breath, and Vanessa leaned back in her chair, pencil already flying over the paper. Outside, the wind whined past the windows and the doors, but the shop was full of the warm, sharp scent of coffee, and kept out the cold.

And if Vanessa lingered a little longer over her coffee than people normally did, or if Rachel hovered around Vanessa more than she strictly needed to tend to a customer, well, they both had their excuses.

The weather was bad, and the coffee shop was empty, and they could both linger all they wanted.