The four times Lily didn't know, and the one time she did. Different ways Lily could have discovered Jessie and Katie's relationship. Slightly AU. T for language and sexual references.
A/N: So this is my first Once and Again fanfiction. I promise I'll finish iLost My Mind soon, I just got this little idea in my head and had to type it out. It's a little weird that this story turned out this way, and I'm sure many of you will notice this, but every way Lily discovers information about Jessie is by eavesdropping/snooping through her things. I don't mean to make Lily seem sneaky, but… well, you know how these things sometimes end up. Anyways enjoy!
Lily was standing in the kitchen, humming to herself as she washed dishes. Her hair was thrown up in a loose bun, and she had yet to change out of her pajama pants. But she didn't really care. It was early yet. And it was Saturday, so there was no hurry for her to get ready for the day.
She had just picked up her cup of coffee when the front doorbell rang. Lily whistled as she strolled over and pulled open the door.
Katie Singer was standing on the other side, holding what Lily assumes is a dress in her hands. Katie is Jessie's best friend, and Lily likes her. She thinks that the older girl is a good influence on her step-daughter.
Still, she's wondering what Katie's doing here so early. She opens her mouth to ask, but the only word she gets out is "Morning."
"Hey. Is Jessie around?" Katie asks.
"Uh yeah, sure. Jessie!" Lily calls up the stairs.
"Come on up Katie!" Jessie yells from up in her attic room.
Katie smiles as she slips past Lily and jogs up the stairs towards her youngest daughter's room. "Thanks Mrs. M." Katie shouts over her shoulder as she disappears into the house.
Lily smiles and shakes her head. Those silly girls… she'll never know what they get up to in all their free time. But she's not complaining. Rick thinks it's good for Jessie to have such a good friend. He says that it keeps her happy. And when she's happy, she eats, which is all Lily is worried about currently.
When she goes to check on them half an hour later, to see if they want breakfast, she pauses at the door. They're giggling about something.
"Jesus Katie, it won't fit!"
"Oh quit complaining, this isn't exactly fun for me, now is it? I'm doing this all for you."
"Katie we have to do this faster! Can't you hurry up?"
"Maybe I should just stop all together. Is that what you want Jess?"
"NO! No don't stop!"
Lily feels her mouth dropping open in shock. What on earth…?
She yanks the door open and hurries up the stairs. "Jessie, what are you…?" She starts to say but trails off, before dissolving into laughter.
Jessie is standing on a stool, half-way forced into a skirt (Lily realizes it was a skirt that Katie had been carrying earlier), with Katie standing below her, trying to pull it up her hips.
"Hi Lily." Jessie says, the traces of laughter from earlier still etched into her face. "Can I help you with something?"
"Oh… no. I just wanted to see if you girls wanted some breakfast."
Jessie exchanges a glance with Katie. "Maybe later Mrs. M." Katie says, turning her attention back to Jessie's ill-fitting garment. "I wanna fix this costume first."
"Alright Katie dear. Well call me if you need anything."
Lily walks out of the room, once again shaking her head at how foolish she's being. What did she think was going on in that room? Obviously the words were taken out of context but even still… ugh, she was being ridiculous. It was just Jessie and her best friend. What did she have to worry about?
She's on her third cup of coffee when the girls finally come downstairs. They're smiling and talking about something that Lily isn't really listening to, and when they stroll into the family room they smile at her.
"Hey Lily." Jessie says. Lily is thrilled with how nice and sincere Jessie is being with her this morning. Usually the girl is abrasive and distant with her step mother. "Is there any breakfast left?" The teen continues.
"I think there's some in the kitchen. Let me warm it up for you."
"Oh no Mrs. M, you really don't have to do that…" Katie starts to protest, but Lily waves her off.
"Nonsense, you're a guest. Now sit down, please. I'll start breakfast up." She starts to walk out of the room, but watching Katie and Jessie walk across the room makes her notice something.
"Jessie, is that a new skirt?" She asks.
Jessie and Katie freeze where they stand, and Lily sees them glance at each other.
"Actually, uh, it's Katie's." Jessie says, playing with the ends of her hair.
"Oh. I like it. But, weren't you wearing that when you came over this morning Katie?"
Katie and Jessie glance at each other nervously again, and Lily has no idea why they seem so flustered.
"Yeah." Katie says, sounding cool and collected, when Lily can see her eyes glancing around nervously. "Actually, Jessie's going to wear it for the school play, we were just trying it out a little bit."
Lily smiles and nods. "That sounds like a good idea, that other skirt wasn't fitting you at all."
"Yeah, it was a great idea." Jessie says, chancing another glance at Katie. "Katie's just full of great ideas."
Lily smiles. "That's nice." She picks up her coffee and this time makes it all the way into the kitchen.
She's only just begun to heat up some eggs when she hears hushed and frantic voices coming from the family room. She doesn't mean to listen, really she doesn't. She's just been worried about Jessie lately and she's… well frankly she's very curious about what all of the teens now a days are talking about. You can't blame her for keeping an ear open.
"What were you thinking, telling her that this is my costume? Now I actually have to wear it tonight during the play!"
"Oh come on, it's much better than that piece of crap Sarah put you in. And besides, what was I supposed to tell her? That you put on the wrong skirt after we were done having sex in your bedroom?"
And the mug Lily is holding crashes to the ground, shattering, spilling lukewarm coffee all over the white kitchen tiles.
Jessie needed a break. At least, that's the excuse Katie gives herself when she proposes that they ditch the rest of the school day. She tells herself it's because Jessie needs a break from all the people talking about her, and from worrying about her mom.
It's what she tells herself, but it's not the truth.
"So, are you like… really into the solar system or something?" She asks while poking at a model that Jessie has hanging up in her room.
"My dad made that." Jessie says from her spot over on the bed. "I feel like I haven't lived in this room forever. Isn't that weird?" She asks, shifting further up the bed.
Katie subconsciously gulps as she watches Jessie, and has to shake herself a little to stop from climbing right onto the bed and joining her. Must not think about Jessie on a bed, must not think about Jessie on a bed… she repeats as a mantra over and over in her head, hoping that by saying it enough times, she'll actually force her brain to listen.
"Well do you like this room or the one at your other house better?" She asks, playing with her fingers and forcing herself to keep her hands occupied and to herself.
"Well this one's nicer, but… I guess I kind of like the other one because it's in the attic and it's like away from everything." She says, and Katie swears that she's smirking at her, challenging her. It's almost as if she's saying, 'Because the other one has more privacy for us' and Katie has to mentally slap herself to keep her mind from going there. Jessie doesn't like her like that. She doesn't. She can't.
"Yeah, it's like an apartment. Like a loft or something." Katie says, suddenly finding it unbearably hot in this room. She pulls her sweater over her head, leaving her in only her red tank top that is, she's a little ashamed to admit, a few sizes too small for her.
"Yeah…" Jessie says, trailing off strangely.
Katie turns back to her and finds Jessie's eyes working their way down her figure. She has to pause. Is Jessie… checking her out? No, that isn't possible. There's no way… is there?
"That's what I want." Katie continues their conversation. "A big loft… in London."
"I wanna live on a ranch." Jessie says, snuggling down into her bed.
"I could see that. I could see you living like that, on a ranch… with horses." Katie says, almost sadly. Because she could, really. She could just imagine Jessie on a big, huge ranch by herself, with nothing around her but horses and mountains. It was so easy to picture Jessie with that kind of future, that it just kept reminding Katie that she herself had absolutely no clue what she was going to do with the rest of her life.
"Of course we wouldn't see each other." And Katie is fighting with everything she has to make this come out light-hearted and friendly, and not laced with the pain and fear of abandonment she's really feeling. "Me in London and you on a ranch somewhere."
"You could visit." Jessie says softly, so softly that if Katie wasn't looking right at her, she might not believe that she'd even said the words.
"So could you." Katie replies.
She thinks Jessie moves first. At least, that's what it feels like, because Katie's sure that she's completely shocked when she feels Jessie's lips on her own. Of course, she'll never really know who made the first move, because Jessie's kissing her, and everything other than that has gone blank.
They kiss for a long while before Jessie pulls back and gets up from the bed. "Billie, what's…?" Katie starts to ask, 'What's wrong?' but Jessie just shoves the door to her room closed and then leaps back onto the bed to reclaim Katie's lips with her own.
If her mouth wasn't otherwise occupied, Katie's sure she would have laughed.
Lily thinks she should feel more uncomfortable in this house. After all, it is her husband's ex-wife's place. But it doesn't really feel weird for her, not like it should. And she's here with both Karen and Rick's permission, so she supposes it's natural that she doesn't feel weird.
Rick told her to come here to pick up a few things for Karen. They're not sure how long she's going to be in the hospital for, and none of them want her to get bored. Lily is picking out a couple books and a few sweaters when she hears a door upstairs slam shut.
She freezes, her mind immediately jumping to burglars. But no… there's no way. They would be upstairs by now, and would have already come through the main part of the house. And Lily had been down there. Nothing had looked ransacked or missing.
So that meant one of the kids was home. She knew it wasn't Eli, he was out job-hunting today. So… Jessie? Was Jessie skipping school? Jessie never skipped school.
Lily is utterly confused, but she has to ask, she has to know what Jessie's doing home. Her mind immediately flies to when she used to skip school and sneak home. Her stomach drops.
"Jessie, I swear to God if you have a boy here-" Lily half-yells as she storms into Jessie's room, flinging the door open as she does so. The angry words die in her throat as she stands in the doorway, wide-eyed, as Jessie leaps backwards from where she had previously been, lying in her bed, on top (straddling, actually) her best friend Katie.
Jessie pulls her shirt down roughly, as Katie combs a few fingers through her hair, trying to look innocent.
"Lily! What are you doing… I mean you're here, and… this isn't what it looks like?" Jessie finishes lamely.
Lily can only stand there, open mouthed, gaping at her step-daughter, refusing to believe what she had just seen.
Katie clears her throat and smiles slightly. "At least it's not a boy." She says with a shrug.
"Look, do whatever the hell you like, Jessie; I'm not saying anything about that. I'm just saying that I think you should be a little more careful with where you do it!" Grace says, flustered, as she drives a pouting Jessie home in her car.
"Oh like you're one to talk."
Grace takes her eyes off the road long enough to glare at her step-sister. "I have no idea what you're talking about. And anyways it's not me we're talking about!"
"Well we're not talking about me either."
Grace rolls her eyes. "Jess, you just need to restrain yourself, please. I don't think everyone needs to see… that." Grace pulls up in front of their house and Jessie is out of the car like a shot, slamming the door and hurrying inside.
Grace grumbles in frustration, before following her sister inside quickly.
Lily is upstairs when she hears the front door slam once, and then twice. The serenity of her day is quickly shattered by the raised voices of her two daughters.
They don't know she's home. They must not know she's home. She's never heard Jessie or Grace speak this openly (or this loudly) when she's been around. And she doesn't say anything. She isn't sure why she doesn't say anything, but… call it natural curiosity about her daughters' lives. She can't help it. Mother's instincts and all that.
"Don't walk away from me!"
"Don't patronize me! You're a year older than me Grace, that doesn't give you the unequivocal right to act all high and mighty about every little thing that I do!"
"I'm not being all high and mighty! I'm just saying that you should be a little more careful where you decide to have sex!"
Lily almost faints. Jessie's been having sex? Oh God, does Rick know? Does Karen know? Jesus, does this mean she has to tell them? Is she being safe? Is she pregnant? Has anyone given her 'the talk' yet?
"It was after school and that closet was completely empty before you showed up!" Jessie yells back accusingly. "And we weren't having sex, Jesus."
Lily breathes a sigh of relief. Thank God for that. But Christ, she was fooling around with a boy in a closet? It's probably that Tad boy. Lily never liked him. She'll have to give Jessie a stern talking to… just as soon as she and Grace were done with their argument.
"You weren't having sex? Then what were you doing?"
It's quiet for a few seconds. "Having fun." Is Jessie's quiet response.
Grace snorts. "Having fun. You call that having fun? Jesus Jessie, what do you think you're doing?"
Lily can almost picture Jessie bristling with indignation. "I have no idea what you mean."
"You're just kidding yourself! You don't even realize how easy you have it. I mean, God just go for it! No one will care! And then at least you'll have someone. At least it's an option. At least the person you're in love with-" But Jessie cuts her off.
"Look Grace," She says, her voice laced with fury, "I don't care what you think you know; I am not in love with anybody."
"Oh really? Have you told Katie that recently?"
Lily feels herself shrinking with pity for her daughter's best friend. Of course. She'd always suspected that Katie and Tad had something going on, and now that he was obviously with Jessie… it must be so hard on the poor girl.
"You leave her out of this." Jessie hissed.
"You're completely screwing her over! How is this in any way fair to her? What is she supposed to think when you just screw around and then leave? This means so much to her."
It does mean so much to Katie. Her two best friends dancing in and out of a relationship must be such a strain on her, Lily can hardly imagine it.
"You can't know that." Jessie says quietly, and Lily is surprised to hear that she sounds scared. "You can't know what she wants."
"She loves you, Jessie. I know that." Grace says. Lily remembers what it was like when her best friend was being stupidly ignorant about a boy that obviously liked her. She had loved all her friends, and wanted the best for them, too. Lily was finding a kindred spirit in Katie Singer that she had never known before.
"Look Jessie, you're not perfect. No one expects you to be perfect. You're in love with a girl, so what? All I'm saying is that you need to stop having sex with Katie until you decide what you want out of your relationship-" and that's all that Lily hears before she faints.
Jessie's room is disgusting. It's really all Lily's thinking about when she walks in there and picks up her step-daughter's clothes, throwing everything that's on the floor into her laundry basket.
She sighs and shakes her head as she sorts through skirts, jeans, and sweaters, half of which she doesn't even recognize.
Which probably means that they belong to Katie Singer, Jessie's best friend. Lily loves Katie, she really does, and she thinks the girl is lovely, but… boy, she has a lot of energy.
Lily starts whistling Billie Holliday while she sorts through Jessie's stuff. It seems like that's the only music any of them are allowed to listen to anymore. Another courtesy of Katie Singer.
But she just makes Jessie so happy, there's no way Lily could be annoyed with her, even if she wanted to be.
It's when she's picking up one of Jessie's sweaters that she finds it. She didn't dig through the pockets or anything; it just fell out of the pile.
Lily moves to chuck it into the trashcan when she notices the hurried writing on the top of the folded papers. Jessie it read, and the author was obviously very upset when they wrote it.
Lily gets worried.
And it isn't like she's snooping, she clarifies to herself. The papers did just sort of fall into her lap, and it wasn't like Jessie was making a big deal about hiding it or anything.
So sue her, she reads it.
She never goes through Jessie's personal things ever again.
Billie, it starts off, I get that you may not want to read this. For some reason, I seem to have made you hate me… from there only a few key words stick out to Lily.
Jessie, you're my best friend.
Please, don't tell me this means we're not friends.
That's the biggest shock to Lily's system. She has to put down the letter and take a few deep breaths. Katie was gay. She didn't know, she had absolutely no clue... Apparently, neither did Jessie. Oh Christ, Katie's afraid their friendship is shot, that they won't be friends anymore… Jessie's not a homophobe. She isn't like that.
Please don't hate me.
Of course Jessie won't hate her. Katie should know that by now.
I think I'm in love with you.
Lily blinks hard and rereads this part of the letter for a long time before she can find the strength to process it. Well of course Jessie's scared, freaked out, nervous and out of whack! Her best friend came out to her and told her she was in love with her in the same day… by letter!
But more than anything I want to be your friend.
Well thank God for that.
I love you with all my heart.
So… Katie was gay. Katie was in love with Jessie. Oh God, she doesn't feel good.
Lily sits heavily on Jessie's bed, clutching at her heart. She's not ready for this. She suspected it with Grace, but… God, what must poor Jessie be feeling right now?
Lily couldn't imagine it.
Jessie comes home from school ten minutes later, and Lily hasn't moved from her perch on Jessie's bed.
"Lily?" Jessie asks, confused, and a little angry, that her step-mother has invaded her personal space like this. "What are you doing here?"
She looks down at the paper clutched in Lily's hands, and rushes over as quickly as she can, snatching the papers away, and smoothing the wrinkles out.
"You shouldn't have read that."
"Oh Jess. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry I didn't know…"
Jessie shakes her head. "No, I'm sorry. I was going to tell you, I was going to talk to you…"
"Honey you need to know that you can talk to me about anything. The confusion you're feeling, the fear over losing Katie as a friend… I can help. I understand a little about this sort of thing."
Jessie sits down and stares at her lap. "I didn't think anyone would understand. This isn't exactly a normal kind of thing, is it? I'm just… I was afraid to tell you, to tell Dad. I was worried you'd think badly of me."
"Of course we don't sweetie. This isn't your fault. You didn't choose this. I'm just sorry that you had to go through all of this on your own."
"It wasn't so bad. I talked about it in my sessions."
Lily's brow furrows in confusion. "You talk about Katie's sexual orientation in therapy?"
Jessie shrugs. "I mean, a little. We talk about mine, too, so it totally isn't weird. And Lily, you don't know how much it means to me that you're supporting me so much, that you're backing me and Katie up."
Lily is still completely confused. "I'm sorry, I'm a little lost… backing you up?"
"I mean I was terrified to tell people about me and Katie being a couple, but now… now I don't think it'll be all that- Lily? Lily you look a little pale. Are you okay?"
She's not stupid. Everyone thinks that she is, but she really isn't. She knows her children better than anyone, better than anything, really. And she hasn't been with her long, but she knows enough about Jessie to know that something's bothering her.
And she's pretty sure she knows what that something is.
She's seen it coming for months. In fact, it's been pretty obvious to her. She's not as oblivious as people make her out to be.
She knows that there's something going on with Jessie and her best friend, Katie. She's had months to think it over, to roll the idea around in her head, and get used to it. It never bothered her really. Having her step-daughter fall in love with another girl wasn't the end-of-the-world scenario she originally thought it would be.
The only problem was that apparently, this budding relationship wasn't so obvious to Jessie. In fact, she's pretty sure that the girl didn't realize what she was feeling until a few hours ago.
Lily was only alerted to this fact when Jessie came sprinting into the house and up into her room to bawl her eyes out.
No one's gone near the place since. Grace and Jessie have never been on very good terms, Eli is at the hospital with his mom, Zoe's too scared, and Rick looked like he would have a heart attack when she suggested he go up there and console his daughter.
She knew it was down to her. She just didn't know how to broach the topic.
Odds are Jessie wouldn't be too keen on talking about it, and would probably be angry at Lily for knowing before she herself knew.
But she had to do something. She didn't like watching Jessie suffer.
But what was she going to say? How could she talk about this? Sure she's talked to Grace about boys before but this… this was completely different. No amount of books could help her with this (and yes, she had read a few books on raising a gay teenager, thank you very much. She needed to be prepared. None of the books had ever mentioned anything like this).
Lily cleared her throat and knocked on Jessie's door.
"Go away!" A muffled voice shouts from above, and Lily sighs. She knew this wouldn't be easy.
"Jessie honey? It's me. I'm coming up, okay?"
"Just leave me alone Lily!" Jessie yells again, but Lily ignores her.
Instead she opens the door and climbs the few stairs necessary to take her to Jessie's bedroom.
Jessie is face-down on her bed, her head buried in her pillows. She doesn't look like she's crying anymore, which Lily is thankful for. She's more likely to talk if she can actually breathe.
"Jess? Sweetie? Do you want to talk about it?"
"No, actually, I don't."
Lily sighs and sits at the end of the bed, putting her hand on Jessie's leg. She thinks it's good when the girl doesn't flinch away. "Talk to me Jessie."
"What is there to talk about?" Jessie asks, turning her face towards her step-mother. Her eyes are still a little red, and her face is blotchy. She's been crying for a while.
"What happened honey? Did you have a fight with someone?" Lily knows exactly what is wrong with her step-daughter, exactly who upset her, but she has to let Jessie say it for herself. All the books say that it has to be the teenager who finally brings up the subject of being gay. They have to do it on their own terms.
Jessie glares at her for a few seconds. "Katie kissed me." She finally says angrily, obviously trying to scare Lily, or shock her into leaving. But Lily doesn't do anything. She just strokes Jessie's leg and nods.
"Yes. And that's what's gotten you so upset?"
Jessie just sits there, her mouth gaping open, shock written all over her face. "You… what?"
"What? You said Katie kissed you. Did it make you angry? Is that why you fought?"
"No I… what? Why aren't you freaking out about this?"
Lily shrugged. "It's not that surprising. More shocking things have happened in the last few weeks."
"But I…" Jessie can't seem to form words.
"Jessie I've known about you and Katie for a while now… or at least, I've suspected it. And I'm fine with it. But something's wrong with you, and I want to know what it is. I want to help."
Jessie is silent for a few long, tense minutes, before finally, she opens her mouth. "Katie kissed me and I liked it. I kissed her back."
Lily smiles. "That's nice. So why were you crying?"
"Because I liked it, and it scared me. I'm scared. I didn't think I felt like that… could feel like that."
"Did you talk about this with Katie?"
"No. I just sort of… ran."
Lily frowns. "That's not good. I'm sure she's beating herself up over this. She's probably extremely upset."
Jessie looks ashamed as she frowns at her bed.
"You should talk to Katie, Jessie. You should… work things out with her. At any rate, you should ease her mind. I'm sure she's miserable right now."
"Do you think she'll talk to me?"
"Of course she'll talk to you. She's still your best friend."
Jessie nods, sitting up and wiping her eyes. "I'm going to call her now."
"That's good dear. I'll be downstairs."
Lily gets up from the bed and leaves Jessie's room. She hears her step-daughter pick up the phone and press a few buttons. "Katie?" Jessie's breathless voice asks. "It's me… we need to talk. Can you come over?" It's silent for a few seconds. "I'll talk to you when you get here, I promise. Please, just… hurry." And Jessie hangs up without saying goodbye.
Lily feels proud that she helped her daughter through this crisis.
Katie is ringing on the doorbell three minutes later. It has to be some kind of record. Lily is sure that she broke several laws, and probably got several speeding tickets along the way, but Katie is there, standing on her front porch, breathless.
"Where?" Is all she can manage to splutter out through her gasps. Lily points up the stairs.
Katie sprints up them before Lily can even open the door all the way to let her in. And she knows what she does next is wrong. She knows that it's completely childish and an invasion of privacy but… she follows Katie up the stairs.
She hasn't missed anything. As far as she can tell, the girls haven't said a thing to each other.
"You got here fast." Jessie says quietly.
"You told me to hurry."
"It was important. But… you didn't really give me time to think about it."
"Time to think about what?"
It's quiet for a few seconds. Lily hears the bed creak, and she imagines Jessie sitting down on it. "To think about what I was going to say to you."
The floorboards creak, and then there's a heavy thump, and Lily thinks that Katie's kneeling in front of Jessie, but she can't be sure. "You've been crying." It isn't a question, and the way Katie says it, like the idea of Jessie hurting is painful for her, too, makes Lily's heart break.
"Jesus Jessie, I never wanted this. I never wanted to make you cry. Please, forgive me. I was a stupid bitch, I was selfish… just forget everything about today, yeah? Forget that this ever happened, that I kissed you, that-" Katie is cut off abruptly, and Lily finds herself wanting to break down the door, just to figure out what's happening. All this suspense is killing her.
"Well that was unexpected." Katie's voice is the next thing she hears, quiet and breathless, and a fair bit happier than before she stopped talking.
"I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me, I just-"
"Don't." Katie cuts her off quickly. "Don't ever apologize for kissing me. I just… wasn't expecting that after today's reaction."
"I wasn't either. I just… I needed to think, to see if maybe it was real, what I've been feeling."
"And? Is it real?"
"I still don't know. I've never felt like this, Katie."
"I'm sorry I've confused you. I know this isn't easy. I meant what I said. We can just forget that this whole day ever happened. We can make this easy."
"Do you want to forget?" Jessie asks quietly.
"Good. Because neither do I."
And then everything goes silent. Lily backs away from the door, a ridiculous smile on her face. She'll be back up in seven minutes or so, to make sure they aren't getting too carried away, but for now, she's going to let them bask in the joys of being young and in love, and feel happy for herself, too, for having some part to play in all of it.
A/N: For anyone who's interested, the bits of Katie's letter are an excerpt from a story that I'm currently working on, and planning to publish, about Jessie and Katie. Let me know if it interests you!