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Give Me No Splendor, Gold, nor Pomp
Casting JJ a speculative look as she heard the vague undercurrent of longing in JJ's tone, Emily swallowed. "I missed you, too, JJ. More than I feel comfortable admitting. More than I..."
"...should have?" JJ asked hopefully, sinking her teeth into her lower lip as she realized how needy that must have sounded.
Staring into the younger woman's eyes, Emily nodded slowly. "You, too?" she asked carefully, not quite sure if she was misreading the emotion shining in the other woman's eyes.
"I don't want to lie anymore, Emily. So, if you don't want the truth, tell me now," JJ managed, her voice tight and tense.
"I do want to know the truth, but I want you to make sure it is the truth and not just stress and fatigue talking," Emily replied, her voice husky. "You've made a lot of life changing decisions in the not so distant past.
"I know how I feel." JJ shook her head, half to clear her thoughts and half to deny the other woman's beliefs. "About me. And about you."
Turning her body slightly, Emily reached for JJ's hand. "I'm not saying you don't, Jayje. I'm just saying that you don't need to rush toward anything right now. You're learning how to go from heterosexual mommy to lesbian single parenthood. That's going to be a hell of an adjustment without adding any complications at all right now."
Tilting her head, JJ stared at Emily's face. "Emily, you realize that even if you tell me that you aren't even remotely interested in me, I'm not going to run back in the closet, right? That choice has finally been made."
"I...I don't know what I thought," Emily answered truthfully. "JJ, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't find you attractive...that I hadn't imagined what it might be like if we...were together. But, I would never tell one of my best friends to go running headlong toward another fire when she's still wearing burns from the last blaze. I wouldn't be much of a person if I did."
"But you aren't saying that you aren't interested," JJ murmured, swallowing hard.
"Of course I'm interested. Have you seen you, JJ? You're hot. Insanely, intensely hot," Emily groaned, running anxious fingers through her dark hair as she felt her cheeks flame at the admission she'd just made. "That doesn't mean that I'd be good for you."
"Well, since I've spent years doing what was bad for me, I should be able to easily recognize the wrong person now, shouldn't I?" JJ asked rhetorically, blowing out a frustrated breath.
Laughing, Emily dropped her head and stared at their joined hands. "Yes, I guess you should. I don't want you to get hurt, JJ. Hell, after the past year, I'm not in much of a hurry to experience any more pain. But I'm not going to sit here and deny that it would be very easy to fall for you given the slightest bit of encouragement. But it has to be the same for you. Right now, can you honestly say that?"
"I'm not ready to make a lifelong commitment to anyone other than my son right now, Emily," JJ replied bluntly. "But, I also know that I spent every day you were gone missing you...and not in the "we're just friends" kind of way. I missed your smile...your laugh...the way your nose wrinkles every time Derek makes some asinine remark about women. I missed your voice...your face. You're who I dreamed about at night and daydreamed about when things got too still. You're the person I had to think about every time Will tried to touch me because you were the person that I wished was touching me. I'm not sure what you call it, Em. But it's how I feel."
Amazed, Emily felt her stomach slowly begin to unclench and a warmth spread throughout her chest. "You have no idea how much that means to me, JJ."
"You wanted me to be honest. That was it." JJ smiled, flushing as she realized just how much she'd revealed to the older woman.
"Okay." Emily slowly nodded. "Well, your Christmas gift beats anything in any of these bags," she noted with an embarrassed look at the bags on the other end of the couch.
"Yeah," JJ agreed with a self-deprecating laugh, "You can't exactly return mine, can you?"
"I wouldn't want to," Emily said quickly, her fingers tightening around JJ's. "It might be the sweetest thing I've ever been given. Being told you mean something by someone you genuinely love...that's priceless." Taking a deep breath, she smiled nervously. "I think this is the part where I ask if you might like to go out after the holidays."
"I thought I was the one that needed to ask you out," JJ teased, relaxing slightly as Emily flashed her a smile.
"Well, since you did the hard part and told me how you feel, I ought to let you know I feel just as seriously about you," Emily offered quietly.
Nodding, JJ suggested, "I'd like to go out with you. Will is going to take Henry toward the end of next week for a few days. Maybe we could have dinner?"
"That sounds great," Emily returned, hoping she didn't sound quite so eager as she felt. She understood that this would be a slow process that included many, many baby steps, but she couldn't help wanting to throw herself headlong into whatever this was.
"I guess the New Year is going to herald all kinds of new beginnings, isn't it?" JJ mused aloud.
"Nervous?" Emily asked gently.
JJ blew her bangs out of her eyes as she answered guiltily, "Would I be a coward if I said yes?"
"No, but you'd be a liar if you said no." Emily winked, wrapping a supportive arm around JJ and squeezing gently.
"It's the right choice, Em," JJ said, nodding resolutely as she leaned against her friend. "Nothing good ever came from living a lie."
"You are definitely preaching to the choir on that sentiment," Emily commiserated, reaching for her glass of wine. "A toast," she prompted, lifting her glass.
Picking up her own goblet, JJ lifted it beside Emily's.
"To new beginnings," Emily said with a wide smile.
Clinking her glass to Emily's, JJ felt her heart lighten. "Our new beginning," she amended slightly.
And as the clock struck midnight, JJ leaned forward and pressed her lips to Emily's, sealing their toast with a chaste kiss.
The year ahead would be filled with turmoil...she was self-aware enough to know that nothing worth having came easily...but, with this brave, determined woman on her side, nothing - not even her own fears- seemed insurmountable.
And that was the most precious gift of all.