Disclaimer: All characters belong to Showtime.

Season notes: Evidence quickly arises in Jenny's case, freeing Alice from suspicion and implicating suicide after Nicki's confrontation. Bette and Tina postpone the move to New York after finding their birth mother and finalizing plans to have her move in.

Chapter 1

Carmen knew what might happen if she walked into The Planet. It was difficult for her to sift through her emotions and decide whether or not she wanted it to happen. A frighteningly vivid picture of Shane swam into her mind—the last time Carmen had ever seen Shane. Shane was walking away, hand in hand with her father in her relaxed jeans and casual black coat. She had that horrible uneven black pixie cut with the weird frosted tips that Carmen had been too distracted to comment on while they were together. After all, she had only hated it in an offhand, uncommitted way, like the pizza you order time after time even though its isn't particularly good. It's something you become comfortable with so you don't bother to change it.

Carmen had started to wonder. Had she ever been comfortable with Shane? They were clearly infatuated with one another. And Carmen had no doubt that Shane was completely sexy, amazingly charming, and life-threateningly addictive. When Carmen was with Shane, all she wanted was more. But it wasn't comfortable. Surely, it was never comfortable. In fact, she now began to think that she had been treading on eggshells the entire year that they were together, constantly afraid that something she did might scare Shane away. Carmen used to think of her time in LA as the happiest time in her life; now she wasn't so sure.

Regardless, there were other reasons that she needed to walk through that door. If nothing else, she was most likely to find a job here in West Hollywood. And specifically at The Planet. She knew Kit and Helena would book her. Additionally, as much as she had run away in the past three years, she did miss them: Helena, Kit, Tina, Bette, Alice, Max… and Shane. The Planet had offered a little family, an oasis of gay, in which she had always felt at home. She knew that rejoining the LA gay community was what she wanted and needed. Finally, Olivia needed to know this part of her past. At least, Carmen had convinced herself that this was true. She felt like she could never fully explain herself, could never make Olivia understand, until Olivia saw it. Perhaps Carmen was still grappling with her own understanding.

Olivia was simply happy, innocently and obliviously so. She held Carmen's hand as the two walked down the busy Los Angeles street. She could smell the warm vanilla smell of Carmen's body wash, mixed with the sweat from the hot day and was incredible aroused. She pulled Carmen closer and squeezed her hand. Carmen turned and smiled at Olivia and Olivia felt a head-to-toe rush. Carmen was incredibly beautiful, perhaps even more so in the warm, California sun. And her smile always made Olivia a little dizzy. Some days Olivia still couldn't believe that someone like Carmen was her girlfriend. Of course Olivia had been with beautiful women before; in fact, one might say she was quite beautiful herself. Tall and solidly built, while still maintaining a graceful femininity, Olivia was olive-skinned with dark, straight hair, slightly Grecian features, and amazing green eyes. She was a Latina, like Carmen, and she loved the way the browns of their skin mixed. Carmen's lighter, like caramel and Olivia's a bit darker.

Carmen suddenly felt incredibly safe. She spun the diamond ring on her left hand and felt confident in herself and in Olivia. She was aware of Olivia looking at her and admiring her and had a great urge to lie down on a big bed, curled up with Olivia, hidden from the world. Carmen's trust in Olivia came so naturally and so simply; it was one of the reasons Carmen loved her. Olivia was also confident and almost naively kind, extremely intelligent, devoted, and strangely alluring. When they were out, women always came up and tried to flirt with Olivia. Carmen sometimes found it ironic that her two serious relationships had been with sexy, charming women-magnets. The difference was Olivia always turned them down.

The two finally made it to the doors of The Planet. Carmen opened the doors and led them in. The air conditioning was a welcome relief and Carmen, too busy taking in her new yet familiar surroundings and relishing this moment of return, took a second to recognize the familiar faces of Tina, Bette, Helena, and Alice exclaiming in surprise and happiness at her arrival. When she did see them she was ecstatic. She ran, with Olivia in tow, to their table and gave each of them a big hug. Olivia enjoyed watching Carmen in her element like this; Carmen's warmth and ease with people was always a treat for Olivia. Introductions were soon made, the two quickly pulled up chairs, and the usual catching-up conversation had commenced with ease.

"Wow, Carmen. When did you get back to LA?" asked Tina.

"Just one week ago," replied Carmen.

"And when did you get engaged?" Helena chimed in.

" And what the hell have you been up to?" threw in Bette.

"Woah, guys, one question at a time."

"OK, definitely the engagement one," replied Alice

Olivia and Carmen smiled at each other.

"I proposed two months ago. I knew Carmen wanted to move back to LA so she could be close to her family. And I knew that I wanted to move there with her," explained Olivia.

"She took me out to a birthday dinner. My present was two one-way tickets to California."

"When she looked up, I was on one knee, holding out the ring. She said yes."

"We sold our lease and started looking for a house out here. Olivia was so confident I would say yes she had already resigned from her position with her firm."

"And two months later, here we are. We're still finalizing the sale of our lease back home, but we're officially moved into our new house."

"Congratulations!" everyone at the table exclaimed.

"So, when did you meet? And Carmen, where the fuck have you been?" asked Alice.

"Well, I moved back in with my family for a little bit before moving to Chicago with my sister. She had a job offer with the Hispanic Studies department at University of Chicago and let me tag along with her. I lived there for about a two years before I met Olivia. She was a lawyer in the city and U of C called her in for a quick consultation. I happened to be on campus that day and we met at the student coffee shop. The barista was hitting on her."

"She was not."

"Please. The barista was hitting on her and was too busy to serve me coffee. Finally, Olivia made her take my order and I don't know. I guess the rest is history. We ended up drinking our coffees together. I think the barista still hasn't forgiven me."

Olivia and Carmen smiled at each other, sharing memories the others in the group can't know.

"And now look at you," breathed Helena.

Carmen and Olivia leaned over and kissed each other, while the rest of the group looked on in contentment, pleased that Carmen had returned happy and healthy.

However, there was still a little tension in the air. Everyone wanted to ask Carmen the same question. Finally, Alice found the nerve.

"So… have you seen Shane?"

Carmen turned from Olivia to Alice still smiling, clearly not yet comprehending the question. When Carmen realized what Alice had asked her smile became noticeably forced. Olivia, recognizing Carmen's uneasiness, grabbed Carmen's thigh under the table, and Carmen quickly responded.

"We haven't run into each other yet."

"Oh, OK. Cool."

Carmen quickly changed the subject. "So, what have you guys all been up to? From the gossip flying around town, you've had a crazy couple of months."

The group looked at each other. They had indeed dealt with a lot. Tina and Bette's recently renewed adoption plans that had kept them in LA until the baby was born, obviously Jenny's death, Shane's breakdown, Alice's arrest and ultimate release. It was a lot to handle.

"Well, you heard about Jenny, right?" asked Helena.

"Yeah. They decided it was suicide?"

Bette snorted. "Please, Nikki pushed her."

"Bette…" Tina stared at Bette, willing her to stop talking about this.

"What? Tina, you know I'm right. They fished around for bogus evidence incriminating one of us because they couldn't stand Hollywood's precious Nikki Stevens being guilty. When there was no longer any way for anyone other than Nikki to have murdered Jenny, they stopped investigating a murder and declared it suicide."

"I just don't think we need to discuss this any further."

"Fine," replied Bette indignantly.

"And Alice, why did they think it was you?"

"Purple fibers in Jenny's fingernails that matched my dress. It was completely crazy, seeing as we had been in contact all night. They finally let me go when it no longer became plausible for there to have been a struggle during which Jenny might have grabbed my dress. She was either pushed from behind or she jumped," explained Alice.

"Oh my god, you guys. I am so sorry," exclaimed Carmen.

"Yeah, we're sorry too. It was just a shitty situation," explained Tina. "And Shane still hasn't really recovered."

Bette and Alice glanced at Carmen at the mention of Shane. She appeared not to care, or at least was trying not to care.

"OK, OK, when are you guys actually going to tie the knot?" asked Alice, changing the subject yet again.

"Well, we're going to hold off on setting a date until we're a little more settled. I mean, I still have to take the California BAR and find practice here in L.A.," explained Olivia.

"That makes sense. Where are you planning on doing the ceremony?" asked Helena.

"We're thinking about Vermont. A cute, little bed and breakfast town. It's gonna be a small ceremony. Family and close friends only," said Olivia.

"Wow, that will be really beautiful," smiled Tina.

Carmen grinned and turned to Olivia for another kiss.

"So," exclaimed Carmen in a business-like tone, suddenly turning away from Olivia. "What is this new Hit everyone's talking about?"

Everyone turned to Helena. She smiled and shrugged her shoulders in her distinctive non-committal style. The simple familiarity of that gesture brought a smile to Carmen's face.

"It's just a club," replied Helena.

"Just a club," exclaimed Alice indignantly. "Please Helena." Turning to Carmen, she explained, "Hit is the biggest gay club in LA now. It's changed the scene entirely. Kit booked Joan Jett a month ago. Joan Jett! LA magazine wrote a glowing review. There are month-long waitlists to get in on Saturdays."

"Shut up Alice," hushed Helena.

"Wait, Helena. Joan Jett? That is not something to shut up about," answered Carmen. "Wow, wow. That is just so…awesome." She had to work a little to mask the disappointment in her voice. If this was truly the case, how was she going to get a job? It had never occurred to her that Kit and Helena would have gotten too big.

Suddenly, Kit appeared from The Planet office. "Hell no. Hell no. Baby girl, what are you doing here?"

"Kit!"

Carmen leapt up and embraced Kit. The two had definitely been major fans of each other. Music was a strong bond in their relationship, and back when The Planet had first become Kit's, they had worked really hard together to make it a serious venue.

"When did you get back into town, girl? And why have you not come to see me yet? And why have you not spun at my club?"

Carmen should have been expecting this, but she couldn't help from laughing happily.

"I'm sorry," she explained smiling. "I just got back into town. Me and Olivia have been settling in."

"Olivia? Oh girl, no you didn't."

"Kit, I'd like you to meet my fiancé Olivia. Olivia this is Kit."

"Well, it is so very nice to meet you Olivia. Welcome to LA and to The Planet."

"Thank you so much. It's so great to finally meet you Ms. Porter. Your reputation and Carmen's stories precede you."

"If you managed to win the heart of this lovely lady, then I'm sure the pleasure is all mine."

Kit grabbed a seat at their table and the group continued to catch up. However, a little bit of tension remained. Carmen was on edge waiting for someone else to mention Shane. Most of them were getting over the shock of seeing her so suddenly. And Alice was having to fight awkward surges of confusion and disappointment whenever Carmen kissed Olivia. The last person she had seen Carmen kiss had been Shane. It had always been Shane. Even with three years of distance, Alice, and she was sure others felt the same, still believed that Carmen and Shane somehow belonged to each other. Not with each other; they had driven each other crazy after all. But there was an ownership there, a claim that Alice was having trouble overcoming.

Olivia, meanwhile, felt the isolation of being in a group of women who could not know each other better. Almost as soon as she sat down, she could sense how in sync they all were. And Carmen, well Olivia could already see Carmen settling back in. Though she was confident that she would be welcomed with open arms, that her status as Carmen's fiancé would earn her a free pass, there was still a moment's panic. What if she jumps back in without me?

Luckily, beneath this tension sat confidence. It was as if everyone at the table, even as they recognized the present discomfort, knew that an easy friendship lay in the future. Even if it wasn't the case now, Olivia and Carmen were going to become an expected and welcomed fixture at The Planet. How could it be otherwise?

"Well, we actually need to go pick up some new dishware for our apartment. But it was sooo amazing seeing you guys," said Carmen, as she and Olivia acknowledged their needed departure and stood up at the exact same time. "Kit, can I call you about deejaying?"

"Yeah, sure. Let me know when you're free girl."

"It was great meeting all of you," added Olivia politely.

And with that, the two left The Planet, hand-in-hand, sharing a private joke on their way out.

"Wow," exclaimed Alice.

"I know," agreed Tina.

"I don't know whether to be more happy, surprised, or scared for Shane," said Alice.

"Scared for Shane? Scared for Carmen," Bette chimed in.

"Scared? What you two scared of? They are both obviously over each other," Kit questioned.

"Oh no no no, they may have both moved on. But they're both dykes, and a relationship like the one they had? You never forget something like that. It just, stays with you," explained Bette.

"I think they'll be OK though. I mean, Carmen is engaged," added Helena.

"She's not just engaged. She's in love. I mean, you guys saw what I saw, right? The two of them were as in love as you two," said Kit, pointing to Bette and Tina. "Carmen looked genuinely happier than I've ever seen her before."

"Yeah, well you've only seen her in love once before," countered Bette.

"Come on guys, let's not be so pessimistic. Kit and Helena are probably right. We're overreacting," reasoned Tina.

"OK, well, I'll leave you lesbos to figure this out. I've got to go pick up Tasha from work. See you guys later."