I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be back in business with this story. It is still my brainchild; I'm obsessed with writing it, completely. I apologize for the delays! This year is extremely hectic and exciting. Throw your appreciation and thanks for the update to writergirl2003. As always, she offers me such limitless support, love, and inspiration. Thank you so much for pushing me to do what I do, honey! I love you all the more for your amazing encouragement and beautiful love.

Without further ado, my faithful readers, here is chapter nine. :)


As she twirled the stem of the lily between her fingers, Kate couldn't help but smile at Beth. Despite the exhaustion that lingered in Beth's pretty green eyes, the blonde thought her friend was positively glowing. Kate paused just before her steps to look at Beth.

"Hey," Kate murmured, smiling. "I want to put this in water. I laid your favorite pajamas out on my bed."

Beth snickered and wiggled her eyebrows playfully at Kate.

"The rainbow kitties? Kate, you're a doll," Beth laughed and began to ascend the stairs. "Don't keep me waiting too long, gorgeous."

Kate pursed her lips tightly together as Beth issued a teasing wink. Nodding to the other girl, Kate started toward her kitchen. There was no need to be quiet tonight, as Lori was still out late with God-knows-who.

Carefully placing her lily on the kitchen counter, Kate found herself staring adoringly at the lovely flower. Her heart thumped rapidly with joy as she pictured Beth going out of her way to visit the grocery store and specifically select that single flower for her. It was beautifully simplistic. Truly, it meant more to Kate than she could ever possibly convey to Beth.

Beth had no need to apologize, Kate reminded herself, as she began to rinse out a slim, slightly dusty vase. In all honesty, the blonde had never been mad at her friend in the first place. That kiss… or whatever it was surely wasn't Beth's fault. Beth was her best friend. It had just been a mistake or an accident.

Blissful in her ignorance, Kate left the situation at that—at least, while Beth was around. She couldn't allow her mind to wander so freely again. She worried for a repeat of the other night. The last thing that Kate wanted was for things to get complex.

Already she doubted and questioned herself. Kate didn't want to do that while Beth was around. She didn't want the other girl to witness just how utterly confused she felt and looked.

Once she had filled the clear vase with water and placed the lily daintily inside of it, Kate gingerly took it in her hands and started up the stairs to her room.

Assuming that Beth would have already finished changing, she rapped lightly on the door before simply permitting herself inside. True to form, Beth was just slipping Kate's tank top over her head. For a brief moment, Kate was treated to a fine view of the perfect dip and curve of Beth's flawless back. Swallowing hard, she set the vase on her nearby dresser.

As soon as she heard the noise, Beth whipped around, grinning ear-to-ear.

"Hey, Katie!" Beth crooned, her eyes shining. "God, I love these PJs," she told her friend, doing a playful, little spin. "They're so comfy!"

Kate was smiling much brighter than she realized as she stepped inside and shut her bedroom door behind her with a light 'click.'

"Good," Kate decided, her gaze washing over Beth with such gentleness and observation. "I'm just glad they were clean," she giggled. "I didn't want you to sleep here without your favorite ones!"

"I would have been okay," Beth admitted with a furtive smile. "Commando isn't so bad, Kate," she winked. "You should try it someday."

Kate merely laughed and crashed back onto her bed with a content, yet heavy sigh.

"I'll take your word for it," Kate ventured, kicking her legs against the bed rhythmically.

"I mean it," Beth insisted, sitting down beside her.

For a split second, Kate thought she felt concern and curiosity ebbing off her friend. It made sense, she reasoned. After all, they still had much to talk about.

"What's on your mind, sweetheart?" the brunette asked, lying down beside Kate. With a smile, Kate took comfort in their relaxed closeness.

"Nothing," Kate shook her head. "I was just thinking."

"What about?"

That was a good question. Kate's thoughts were so ridiculously jumbled together at times that she, too, wondered just what her mind was trying to express.

"Uhm," the sound slipped from Kate's mouth clumsily. "No, I just—" There was another pause. "How are you, Beth? Is everything okay?"

There was a definite silence. Kate glanced at the brunette inquisitively out of the sides of her eyes. It was unlike Beth to remain quiet for any amount of time, much less when she appeared so bubbly and content.

"I'm fine, Kate," Beth assured her as she turned on her side to face her friend. When she was met with a doubtful look from Kate, she continued to soothe her. "Promise."

"You just seem really tired," Kate noted, her eyes blinking worriedly. "Have you not been sleeping?"

Beth sighed. Oh, no, Kate mused to herself. Something was obviously wrong.

"It's not a big deal," Beth maintained, curling one of her legs up comfortably beneath her as she continued to lie on her side, facing Kate. "My sister's asshole boyfriend has just been saying with her… us."

Kate narrowed her eyes in confusion.

"Is that… is that bad?" she asked, bewildered.

Beth appeared to be biting the inside of her cheek. Kate's interest suddenly doubled.

"I just really can't stand that creep, Kate," Beth replied, her tone neutral. "That's all."

In clear understanding, Kate nodded. She could definitely relate; although, she wasn't about to belittle Beth's situation. In a sense, Kate envied Beth once again. While Kate was plagued with many Skip's and men that she detested, Beth only seemed to be cursed with one. Yet, one was more than enough to spoil something.

"I understand," Kate ensured her. "Believe me."

Beth's lips curled into a smile again. It wasn't long before a small giggle surfaced, also.

"I bet you do, stud," Beth prodded Kate gently on the nose with her fingertip.

"Not like that!" Kate laughed, rolling onto her back yet again.

Kate's mind was plagued with thoughts. She wanted to speak candidly to Beth, as she always did, but uncertainty held her back. There was something on her mind that she wanted to tell Beth, yet she was afraid.

"Hey," Kate spoke suddenly, surprising herself.

Blinking her eyes curiously, Beth craned her neck to look at her friend.

"What's up?" she asked, curling her hand beneath her head.

"I don't know," the blonde replied, licking her lips nervously. How was she supposed to bring this up, anyway?

Hey, Beth! I'm not so sure I'm really straight. Can you help me?

No. The very thought scared the life right out of her. To think that she was even about to talk about this with Beth made her incessantly anxious and unsure of herself. Maybe she should just keep it to herself. Then again, that reasoning would only reward her with more anxiety.

"Katie?" Beth said, after a moment, her eyes narrowed with concern.

"Uhm."

Her hesitation was persistent. Her heart was beating more rapidly than ever, and this time it wasn't because of her feelings.

"Beth," Kate's voice was tiny and meek. "I'm just… I don't know. I guess it kind of scares me that I didn't feel anything for that boy. I've never felt anything for any boy."

Beth blinked and sat up right. Crossing her legs beneath her, she curled her hands in her own lap before studying Kate again.

"Yeah?" she prompted with a smile. "What are you so 'scared' about, Kate?"

Kate's throat tightened.

"I don't… think…" the blonde was having obvious trouble articulating what she was feeling. After all, she felt completely blown away by her own revelation.

Beth, however, was looking on with curious and gentle eyes. While Kate typically felt soothed by Beth's gorgeous and passive green eyes, now she was overtaken by anxiety.

"I don't think I like boys."

The words fell out of Kate's mouth in the most rushed and haphazard of ways. It was almost as though she hadn't even said them at all. In all honesty, Kate certainly wished that was the case.

Beth's reaction was more than just a little surprising to Kate. In fact, it was leaning more toward absolutely mind-blowing. There was scarcely a change in her best friend's expression. She looked almost entirely unfazed. Had Beth known her dirty, little secret? Surely she didn't. Kate had barely known herself.

"Why?"

That was it. Beth said nothing more. Part of Kate wished that the other girl would investigate her thoroughly, if only because Kate herself wanted to know how she came to this conclusion. It had come out of nowhere.

"Well, I… I don't really know," Kate offered, shrugging.

"That's okay," Beth reassured her with a smile.

Kate's eyebrows furrowed sadly. This wasn't what she wanted! Beth was supposed to dig deeper than this.

"You okay?" Beth asked, catching Kate's inward concern.

"Yeah," Kate insisted plainly. She barely noted a twinkle in Beth's eyes.

The brown-haired girl reached over and twirled a bit of Kate's pretty, blond hair between her fingertips before giggling. A slight, albeit pleasant burning sensation surged within Kate's lower belly.

"Why do you think you feel that way?" Beth wondered, her sweet and caring eyes sharing a gentle gaze with Kate.

How to start, Kate mused to herself.

"Well, I mean... when I thought about the future, I couldn't ever picture myself with a man, you know?" Kate ventured somewhat awkwardly. "It just… I didn't like it, and I couldn't see it. It just… didn't fit with me, you… know?"

Kate felt as though she was babbling at this point; however, by the glimmer of intense interest in her friend's eyes, she supposed she was on the right track.

"Sounds familiar," Beth noted, giggling soon after.

Kate just blinked up at her in confusion.

"What?"

The blonde tried to place the emotion that sparked in Beth's eyes as she tossed her something resembling a knowing look.

"Kate, I think I know your 'problem,'" Beth claimed, licking her lips. She pushed herself up into a sitting position, with Kate quickly following suit.

"Really?" Kate asked, her voice barely a squeak. Thank God! Maybe now she wouldn't have to explain everything word for word.

"Mmhmm," hummed Beth, as she tapped her fingers on her knee. "I just don't think you do."

Uhm. In Kate's mind, she began to panic. Didn't know her own problem? That was absolutely ridiculous! She did know. At least, she thought she knew.

"I—of course I know!" Kate blurted out thoughtlessly.

"Oh, yeah?" Beth prompted, blinking evenly at her. "What's goin' on, then, Katie-babe?"

Kate's insides turned to mush. The sweet-talking names were going to be the death of her; of this she was absolutely certain. Without even realizing it, Beth was killing her slowly.

"I'm… just not interested in boys."

"And that is…?"

"…being not interested in boys."

"Not being interested in anyone?"

"No."

"Yeah?"

Beth's eyes narrowed curiously, while Kate fastened a look of unconscious defiance on her face. It was Beth who spoke next.

"Who?"

"Not… boys."

"Kate."

"Beth…?"

With a heavy sigh, Beth canted her head to the side. Kate watched with inner peril as her gorgeous locks of brown hair tumbled beautifully and clumsily across her perfect face. The blonde's focus was faltering.

"I said, 'who.'"

There was Beth again.

"Uh…"

"C'mon, Katie," Beth egged her on like a football coach. "We're getting there."

"No."

"What?"

"I don't know!"

Kate could tell that Beth was trying so desperately not to laugh. Her dimples were tighter and deeper than usual, and there was a certain, amusing strain about her face.

"Kate," urged Beth. "Come on," this time Beth took Kate's hands in hers. Kate nearly tripped all over herself. She had held Beth's hands countless times before, but now it was different. She felt as though she was about to keel over with emotion. "You can say it."

"Say what?"

"You know what, Kate Emily Spencer."

"No, I don't!"

"You're scared."

"No, I'm not!"

"Yes, you are."

"No!"

"Yes!"

"Beth!"

"Kate!"

Kate should have just told Beth to give up, that she would never get this out of her, but she wasn't having far too much fun, unbeknownst to herself. The look on Beth's face, that pure and flawless happiness—she didn't want to give that up just yet. She wanted to savor it for as long as she possibly could.

It happened in slow motion. One moment, Beth's eyes were gleaming with amusement, and then, the next, she had doubled over with laughter. Kate grinned. Her laugh was sweet, genuine, and ethereal. Her voice rose in pitch before her lungs gave way to the good-humored lack of oxygen.

The brunette's cheeks turned red with the effort of her strong cackles, and Kate suddenly and curiously wondered if she was all right.

"Beth?" she ventured, her heart pounding with emotion as she watched her best friend with doting eyes. Her laugh was addictive; it was so Beth.

Beth's teeth turned to lips white with how hard she bit down. Shaking her head, she twitched fingers, letting Kate know that she was all right. Kate blinked, feeling a small laugh of her own building in the depths of her stomach.

"Oh," sighed Beth, after a moment of blinking away her laughter-induced tears. "I don't know what the hell that was about."

Kate smirked somewhat. There was a certain satisfaction that came with making Beth laugh so candidly.

"You have a cute laugh."

The words fell out of Kate's mouth with little remorse. Beth only offered her a playful grin.

"Yeah?" Beth rolled her eyes teasingly, but Kate could just barely trace a hint of a blush on her already-rosy cheeks. "Well, I'm glad someone likes it."

Kate licked her lips and nodded. Suddenly, a thought struck Kate, as sharp as a knife in her belly. Riley. Earlier she had reasoned that agreeing to hang out with her wouldn't both Beth, but… surely it wouldn't hurt to mention it.

"What's up?" Beth asked abruptly, one of her eyebrows rising. "I know that look. It's the 'uh oh, Beth, I feel guilty and need your approval' look."

The emotion that followed on Kate's face was essentially unrecognizable. She chose to cap it off with a laugh, however.

"How'd you know?" the blonde wondered in playful defense.

Beth shrugged, giving nothing away. Kate envied her poise. Book-smarts had nothing to do with the way that Beth presented herself and her emotions. She was as sly as a fox when it came to that.

"I read you well… too well, if you ask me."

"Yeah, that's for sure," Kate commented, licking her lips out of nervousness again.

"Anyway," Beth continued. "What's going on?"

"Well… I was at the grocery store today," Kate started to say, her eyes trailing patterns along the carpet. "and I sort of ran into Riley."

Kate watched as Beth's expression didn't change whatsoever. Had she been wrong to even bring this up? Was it really necessary? Regardless, it was too late now.

Laughing, Beth looked at Kate strangely.

"Okay… and Riley's suddenly worth a news report, because…?"

"Actually, she kind of… approached me."

Again, Beth's expression stayed the same. Not even her eyes—the most expressive part of her—betrayed her.

"Kate," Beth's eyelashes fluttered in confusion. "You don't have to tell me this. Just because she's my ex-girlfriend, doesn't mean you can't talk to her. Goodness."

"She wants to be my friend."

There it was. A single flicker in Beth's eyes was enough for Kate. So, she had noticed! Kate's mind was racing. Why did she almost feel good about that?

"So," Beth replied, a bit tartly. "Everyone deserves friends."

"Do you…"

Kate stopped. What was she supposed to say? 'Do you not want me to be her friend'? Beth would just tell her that it wasn't her business telling Kate how to live her life.

"I just… it's weird."

"It shouldn't be," Beth told Kate, her voice more brittle than it had been before. "Riley is just another girl to you."

Kate's mouth dropped open slightly, as her heart wrenched. That had hurt. Surely Beth felt more attached to her than that, after all this time. Now Kate was certain: bring that up had been a mistake. By the darkening shadows in Beth's eyes, she could tell that this much was true.

"Yeah," Kate remarked sorely, her eyes on the floor once again.

"Did she say anything to you?" Beth asked guardedly, her eyes suddenly flashing with realization of the magnitude of what she had just said. Kate, too, was shocked.

"What… what do you mean?" Kate stuttered in confusion, her eyebrows lowering.

As though she were embarrassed by her own meager outburst, Beth shook her head.

"I'm sorry, honey," Beth said quietly, lifting her right hand to gently reach out and touch Kate's knee affectionately. "It's just… it's been a really long day. I'm just a little… well, you know."

It was only by the return of Beth's sweet smile that Kate felt herself beginning to relax once more.

"Heh," Kate bit her lower lip lightly. "Yes. As… long as you're sure you're okay, Beth."

In a single moment, the insistent pull lingering at the bottom of her stomach was almost too much for Kate. Her thoughts and being were abruptly overcome by the mere presence of Beth. She felt overwhelmed and overheated; her body nearly broke into a cold sweat.

"Mmhmm," Beth cooed promisingly as she sat up beside Kate and draped her arm around her friend. "You know, it seems like forever since we've really talked."

Kate would have been too consumed by the intensity of Beth's touch to breathe had breathing not been a reflex. Her breath sucked in rapidly before she could even get a chance to conjure up some sort of appropriate reply.

"We talk all the time," Kate told her, giggling, her face flushed. The blue-eyed blonde could not even begin to extrapolate the feeling of ill-fated discovery that she felt as Beth's eyebrows knitted in what Kate perceived as secret awareness.

"I mean really talk, Kate," Beth told her as she slipped off the bed and onto her behind. She now sat on the floor against Kate's bed with her head tilted back slightly to peer up at Kate.

"Oh, yeah… that," replied Kate, her mind drifting elsewhere. To accommodate Beth's sudden movement, Kate also shifted over on her bed to where she could freely play with Beth's hair. There was no sense in asking for permission; this was a practice they had partaken in many times before.

"Do you ever wonder who your soul mate is? What they're like?"

The question was posed by Beth, and it left Kate's mind racing. When Kate didn't reply, Beth marched on with her endeavors.

"I think about it sometimes."

The information was offered humbly, and Kate found herself hanging on every word, no matter how simple.

"I wonder if she'll be, like… completely different from me or what we'll have in common…"

Kate's thoughts clung to Beth's musings.

We're fairly different, Kate realized she was thinking, but we have a lot of things in common, too. Beth… your hair is so beautiful. I-

"…what she'll look like, though that doesn't really matter…"

You say I'm beautiful. Do you really mean it how you say it? I've heard that you call a lot of your friends that, or… is that just me being paranoid? What you think means so much to me, Beth.

"…when we'll meet. Hell, maybe I've already met her!"

What if… what if you already have? What if it's…?

"…but I don't know, Katie." Pause. "Maybe I'm too young to be thinking about love and stuff."

"No, I don't think so." Oh. Was that out loud? Kate's face flushed as she continued to comb her fingers through Beth's silky, dark brown hair.

"Yeah?" Beth was grinning widely. "Maybe," she shrugged. "I guess I am a pretty big believer that love hits you when you least expect it to."

"Me too." Kate's reply was produced from an almost dreamlike state. She felt so far away from her own body as though she was on a cloud.

"That's cool." Beth continued with a satisfied sigh. Her eyes were closed, Kate noticed, as the blonde continued to gingerly and rhythmically brush her fingers through her friend's hair. The peaceful silence was short-lived, however.

"Have you ever been in love before, Katie?"

Kate's blood ran both steaming hot and freezing cold all at once. Her face was searing with white-hot emotion while her extremities were frostbitten with unbridled mental intentions. The question stabbed her mercilessly, assaulted her mind with murderous inquiries of her innermost feelings. Her blood pressure skyrocketed; her body grew taut.

"No." she swallowed the word with a silent gulp of air. She nearly choked on the sentiments that lay at the back of her tongue. Was Beth going to admit that she was? That she had been? Or… that she was currently? Kate could have driven herself into a full-blown anxiety attack if Beth hadn't answered a moment later.

"Me either," Beth confided in her soon after. "You know… I was thinking about my first 'love,' and I realized that… there was no way she could have been my soul mate. She could never love me back."

Kate's heartbeat was aroused with jealousy as Beth spoke of her past relationship. Though, she kept her mind off it by finishing off her French braid of one section of Beth's hair.

"I didn't love her. I loved the idea of her. To love someone, like… a soul mate, they've got to love you back, right? That, and… I wouldn't have done anything for her. I wouldn't have died for her, or… gone to the ends of the earth for her. I wanted love so badly that I let myself get hurt for no reason. I didn't even know her before we started 'dating.'"

Though she had not realized it, Kate's breath had quickened significantly while her mouth was slightly agape. Her heart and stomach both flipped simultaneously as she felt the most earth-shattering tug at her heartstrings. It was a force so powerful that she was nearly moved to tears. Her eyes burned with the undisclosed emotion.

They were more alike than Kate had previously realized.

"Does that sound totally weird?" Beth asked as she glanced up at Kate with childlike insecurities reflecting in her expressive eyes.

"No… no, not at all," Kate spoke genuinely, her eyes dim with affection. "Beth, that was really… beautiful."

"Huh?" Beth was smiling brightly and blushing jovially at Kate's unexpected compliment.

It was now Kate's turn to feel the unintended heat of embarrassment.

"I-I just… I… you… when you really…" Kate swallowed out of nervous habit and took a deep breath. "You have a really… graceful way of speaking, Beth."

"Nah," Beth swatted her hand facetiously at the air. "I was just… telling you how I felt."

"Well, your words and your feelings are very beautiful," Kate told her, gaining a bout of confidence out of nowhere. The new rosy tint to Beth's cheeks encouraged her to continue onward. "You are so much more intelligent and deep than you think, Beth. I mean it… You are the most intelligent person I have ever met—no matter what you say."

"Kate…" Beth's eyes were narrow with such gentle and revering passion as she reached up to take one of Kate's that rested on her own head. "You know you don't have to say all of that, baby."

Oh…

A swirl of newfound sentiments whipped through Kate as strongly as a late summer hurricane, yet with the tenderness of the most meaningful embrace of two young lovers. Her breath was robbed of her; her stare was hollow with delight.

Such pleasure coursed through her veins, such inexplicable adoration, she surely must be on the highest cloud of the most perfect, fictitious Eden. Her entire body was riddled with warmth. Never had she known such worldly happiness existed. Why must this moment ever have to end?

"I needed to." Kate's mouth willed her to speak at long last.

"Needed to?" Beth seemed to understand the magnitude of her best friend's intentions, if only for a single moment. "Kate, you make me so happy—" she said softly as she turned to face the other girl. "—happier than I could ever tell you. Really."

Kate could only watch as Beth reached out and affectionately brushed her blond hair from her eyes.

"I'm so lucky to have you," Beth divulged to her evocatively. "Come here." Her voice was so pleasantly soft and inviting. Kate hesitated briefly as she watched Beth pat the place beside her. It was only another second, however, before she was on the floor next to Beth.

Smiling vibrantly, Beth slipped her arm around Kate and pulled her close. Kate was nearing a massive heart attack around the time that she found her own head lying delicately against Beth's shoulder.

With a quiet sigh, the brunette curled her fingertips against Kate's side unconsciously. Kate began to wonder if Beth could keep the severity of her heartbeat, given that Kate thought that she was very nearly about to faint from pleasurable shock. She was so close to accidental hyperventilation that it was not even the slightest bit funny.

"I'm… I'm so lucky to have you," Kate replied certainly, as she inadvertently inhaled the sweet, flowery scent of Beth's all-natural perfume. Oh, it was heavenly and sultry, powerful and tranquil, identifiable and mysterious. "Beth—" Her name caught in Kate's throat; Kate's belly was alive with butterflies.

"Hmmm?" Beth hummed.

Kate glanced up only to find that her friend's eyes were closed while a divine smile blessed her pretty pink lips.

"I'm really happy that you came over." It was all that Kate could think of to verbalize. It was horribly lame and out of place, but that did not very much matter.

"Me too, sweetie," Beth's eyes were open again. To Kate they appeared to be serene and vibrant, much like the meadows that Beth so passionately adored. "I missed you so much. Seeing you always makes me feel amazing."

The brunette's thought process seemed to only slow after this. Until now, she had been rather attentive, but from the moment that Kate spotted Beth's eyes closing, she knew that it was only a matter of time before her best friend was too tired to sanely function. It had been a long day, after all.

"God, I'm so damn tired. I feel crazy!" Beth giggled blithely as she licked her lips.

Kate pursed her lips and poked at Beth's side teasingly. Luckily, she had previously had the pleasure of seeing a sleep-deprived Beth several times before. She was always so irresistibly cute and absolutely loopy.

"Come on, sleepyhead. I'll get you into bed," Kate offered, as she snaked her arm around Beth and began to try to help her up.

"Glad we had this talk before I descended into madness!"

Kate laughed good-naturedly.

"What a smart thing for such a sleepy girl to say."

Beth made a noncommittal noise in the back of her throat before she began to teeter Kate and her around clumsily.

"Let's just sleep on the floor," she insisted with a tired wink at Kate. "You can use me as your pillow, 'kay?"

"Are you sure you want to commit to that, Davis?" Kate quirked one of her eyebrows at her. "I'm a well-known kicker and shifter in the night."

"I know this," Beth yawned, leaning against Kate happily. "You kicked me in the jaw last time I was over here."

"I said I was sorry!" Kate was grinning like an unadulterated fool.

"Not sorry enough," Beth insisted lightheartedly as she rose to her feet clumsily, pulling Kate along with her. "I couldn't chew on that side of my mouth for two days."

"It doesn't take much to chew a salad, does it?"

"Kate Emily Spencer!" Beth howled in surprised humor as she shoved the other girl onto the bed. "That was low!" Kate was pleased when she saw that sleepy Beth was holding in a serious bout of laughter.

"I just wanted to test how awake you were," Kate asserted with a definite nod.

"And?"

"You're awake."

Beth smacked Kate on the behind playfully, causing the other girl to shriek and giggle in response.

"If I was more awake, I'd royally kick your ass."

"My house, Beth Davis—if I want you out," Kate squinted one of her eyes shut for emphasis. "—you're outta here!"

"You wouldn't!"

Kate pulled Beth onto the bed with her, and, for a moment, the two girls wrestled playfully.

"Uh huh. Wanna place a bet on that?" Kate slurred, mimicking Beth's tired appearance. "It's time for bed."

"I'm not two!" Beth argued humorously as she whacked Kate with one of her pillows gently. "I'll go to bed when I'm good and ready."

"You're ready," Kate breathed a soft giggle. "Trust me."

Aside from a huff of protest, Beth kicked back Kate's blue comforter and slipped beneath the covers on her usual side of the bed. Kate was watching her with a sheer look of admiration. Her ears and face were both hot with delight that they would be able to share her bed again tonight. The mere notion of being allowed to even be in the same room—much less bed—with Beth was such beautiful prospect.

"Comfy?" Kate asked, after she had carefully peeled back her own side of the covers and climbed in beside the other girl.

Upon issuing a hearty yawn, Beth replied with a murmur of acknowledgment. She was completely exhausted; Kate could very easily tell. With the lights already off and the fan going, Kate, too, allowed herself to get comfortable.

"Goodnight, Beth," she whispered tenderly.

"'Night, Katie," Beth hummed sleepily in return, her hand briefly reaching over to give Kate's leg a teasing squeeze.

Overcome with endless amounts of positive sentiments, Kate realized that she herself was smiling so brightly. As she gripped at the covers, she wondered how she could possibly sleep when she felt so incredible, so at peace, so full of indescribably perfect and fulfilling emotions. Her heart was still thumping adamantly in her chest.

The feelings that surged so strongly within her both frightened and thrilled her all at once. It was difficult to continue this game of lying to herself. These feelings… they were not associated with feelings of friendly love or appreciation. The fluttering sensations of butterflies and warmth that rested at the bottom of her belly were not cohesive with friendship.

Kate's pale baby blue eyes carefully picked their path off to where Beth lay. Her chest rose and fell slowly and peacefully as she slept; truly, she had been very tired. The smile on Kate's lips deepened, wrinkling her cheeks ever so slightly. This was perfect.

In her heart, Kate knew the truth. As terrified as her mind convinced her to be, her soul felt at peace at last. It was up to time when and if she would be able to face these feelings and the truth head on with full assurance.

As she turned over onto her side, her senses overtaken with the overpowering company of Beth's beautifully sleeping form, she continued to entertain her lips' genuine smile. The absence of physical closeness between them was too strong, too painful, Kate recognized daringly.

With a dash of courage, she leisurely urged herself over, closer to Beth, until she was nearly pressed against the elegant arch of her back. Her mind and heart were racing. Beth's incommunicably delightful scent enveloped her with warmth and affection. Closing her, Kate surely thought she was in her own personal heaven.

Sleep came easily to her swiftly beating heart, for she felt such tranquility and warmth within her soul that she hadn't felt in all of her seventeen years of living.

This was it.