Disclaimer: If Swingtown were mine, it would be in its 5th season. It also would have aired on Showtime or HBO... just sayin'. (see profile for a REAL disclaimer)
A/N: I've been working on this story off and on for the better part of the last three years. The gods for The International Day of Femslash 2012, otherwise I probably wouldn't have finished this monster. Happy reading everyone!
It's a Tuesday the first time it happens.
Susan isn't quite sure how she ends up on the Deckers' front porch, her eyes puffy and red after a particularly nasty fight with Bruce, but she finds that it's a little easier to breath when Trina finally opens the front door and takes her into her arms. It isn't the first time that they've hugged, nor the second or third, not by a long shot. However, it is the first time that their embrace has grounded Susan in such a way, like a port in the storm of her crazy life. She spends the rest of the night clinging to that, clinging to her.
Trina doesn't let go.
The second time it happens it's snowing outside and the smell of it overwhelms her when she greets Trina at the door. Crisp, cold, and clean.
Thanksgiving is only a few days away and somehow the homeless shelter two streets over has roped her into baking desserts for their annual turkey dinner. So, after turning the radio on low, Susan spends most of the afternoon teaching her friend how to mix things and what proportions are best for what pies, despite what the recipes might say. They joke and tease one another, and she purposely turns a blind eye to the steady stream of apple slices that mysteriously keep disappearing when her back is turned. It's always been give and take, their friendship, lenient but strong, and it's happy, carefree moments like this that reminds her of that.
It's only when they finally get the fruits of their labor into the oven, and the sun has already set well below the horizon, that something shifts between them. She's not really sure what it is exactly, but just as she realizes that they're covered in more ingredients than they actually put into the food, she feels it.
Susan's laughter fills the room and soon Trina joins her. There's flour everywhere- all over the front of their sweaters, in their hair, and she's pretty sure that there's a tiny bit of dough is smeared across her neighbor's cheek. The place is an absolute mess.
Clearing her throat, Susan gestures vaguely to the right side of her face, "You uh, you've got a little..."
Trina's eyes dance playfully, shuffling closer to her as she unsuccessfully tries to wipe it off, "Did I get it?"
Susan suspects that she missed on purpose, but finds herself amused anyway. She shakes her head and grins nervously, lopsided and sweet, much like she remembers doing so many times on the fourth of July. After only a moments hesitation, she reaches up and tentatively cups the side of her face. Trina sways forward, blinking heavily as Susan works on gently brushing the dried pie crust from the woman's jaw. Her skin is soft and warm and she knows, even as she's doing it, that she lingers a little longer than she really should.
Then their eyes meet.
Her chest tightens and the air around them heats noticeably. Flustered, she pulls her fingers away, choosing instead to toy with the ends of dark brown hair, unable to break the connection completely. She becomes nervous when Trina's head tilts to the side, her brow furrowed as she watches her with curiosity, like a light bulb went off she's suddenly discovered a secret worth studying. Susan wants to say something, anything to break this new tension between them, to somehow explain, but every time she tries her voice gets caught in her throat.
Startled, Susan's heart nearly leaps out of her chest and she's just barely able to put a respectable amount of distance between them before BJ walks through the door.
"Oh, hey Mrs. Decker."
"BJ," she nods politely, "how's that girlfriend of yours doing?"
When her son blushes, she's almost certain that she does as well.
"Samantha's good- really good actually. She's coming for a visit after the holiday."
Trina smiles warmly, "Really? That's wonderful!"
BJ ducks his head shyly and nostalgia warms inside her chest. How had her son managed to grow up so quickly?
"Yeah, well. It's only for a day."
"A day is better than nothing at all though, right?"
He grins, but she can tell that it doesn't really reach his eyes. It's sad and hopeful at the same time.
"Yeah, I guess you're right."
"Oh, I'm always right," Trina chuckles, tossing him one of the leftover apples, "Now go on upstairs and entertain yourself for an hour. Your mother doesn't realize it yet, but she's going to show me how to make spaghetti."
Susan smirks, knowing full well that the woman could burn water if she left her alone for too long and isn't surprised when BJ's eyes flick unsure back and forth between herself and Trina, most likely thinking the same thing.
"Good luck," he took a hearty bite of the apple and escaped toward the stairs, stopping before he was completely out of sight, "Just- try not to burn the place down, okay?"
Biting her lip, Susan tries not to laugh.
Trina turns her head, raising a delicate brow in her direction, "He gets his sense of humor from his mother. How charming."
Shrugging innocently, she starts cleaning off the counters, "Are you sure you don't want to just, I don't know... watch, maybe?"
Susan doesn't see the dish towel coming.
The third time it happens, it's a quiet Saturday morning and The Scooby-Doo Show is playing on the television when Trina takes her by the hand and leads her into the house.
They don't speak, they never do, not on days like this. Tom is on his way home from Japan, BJ is spending the weekend over at Rick's, and it's become some sort of silent agreement between them to seek each other out when the loneliness becomes too much to handle. It didn't start out that way at first, no, they were just two friends spending time together when things got quiet. But, ever since that one beautiful night with Roger, one heartbreakingly sweet evening, her ability to cope and self-soothe has greatly diminished. She'd woken up the next morning naked and alone, only to find that he'd slipped out in the middle of the night and gone to Cincinnati anyway, guilt getting the better of him. It's been a long and weary process since that night- separation, a quick divorce, mediation that resulted in a shared custody agreement- and if it weren't for Trina she's certain that she'd have gone insane by now.
So, even though it's out of the ordinary, Susan lets herself be tugged down onto the couch and guided so that her head lays on the younger woman's lap. She accepts the solace for what it is, nothing more, nothing less. Fingers run through her hair, soothing away the tears that slide silently down her temple, and for the first time in months she decides to break the unspoken rules.
"The bank is foreclosing on the house next month," she confesses with a whisper.
Those magic fingers stop in their tracks, a heavy silence settling between them. In that moment she doesn't realize it, but ten, twenty, hell even thirty years down the road she'll always associate what Trina says next with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla flavored ghouls flashing across the screen as the Scooby Gang raced to save the day.
"We'll figure something out," she promises, skilled digits once again resuming their massage on her scalp, "We always do."
Susan nods and chokes out a relieved sob, gripping the inside of Trina's knee like a life raft until her body stops shaking and finally calms. She's not alone.
That's how Tom finds them a few hours later, mindlessly watching the television, still laying in the same position. If he's surprised to find her sprawled across the couch with his wife, he doesn't show it.
"Hey there, beautiful," he calls out, setting his things down as he walks in and kisses his wife in greeting.
"Have a good flight?" she asks quietly.
His hand drops to caress his wife's growing baby bump and they share a secret smile only a foot above her head. Susan feels like she's intruding.
"It was long," he sighs, "I missed you."
Trina hums happily, kissing him again, "I missed you, too."
Their exchange is intimate, awkwardly so for her, and Susan tries to slip out of the way to give them some space. But, before she can even lift her head from its position in Trina's lap, she feels a small hand slide around her waist and press her back down. Confused, she relaxes and obeys the silent command, breath catching in the back of her throat when that persistent palm glides higher against her ribs, resting just below her chest. Then she realizes why Trina stopped her, because Tom is focused solely on her now. His warm eyes meet hers and the back of his fingers caress her cheek as he leans down and presses his lips to her forehead. It's oddly comforting and she blushes at the attention.
"Susan," he smiles, his thumb and bent forefinger nudging her chin affectionately, "It's always a pleasure to see you."
She's not sure what to say to that, both of them are constantly surprising her. Thankfully, he pulls away before she can react.
"Well, I'm beat. I think I'm gonna go lay down for a few hours, rest my eyes," he flashes them his trademark cocky smile and gestures toward the bedroom, "Can I interest either of you lovely ladies in joining me?"
Susan can't help herself, she giggles and turns to look up at Trina, who meets her gaze steadily.
"Maybe later, sweetheart," she says, her thumb absentmindedly brushing the underside of Susan's breast, "I think we're good right where we are."
She shivers and arches slightly into the touch before she realizes what she's doing. Six months ago, Susan would have never thought she'd be there- laying willingly in a woman's arms with said woman's husband in the next room, single and about to lose her new home. Everything has changed so much, but this, right here? Trina has somehow managed to stay the same, she's always there no matter what, and if she's honest with herself it scares her a little how close they've gotten- how right it feels. But if there's anything that the Deckers have taught her, it's to keep an open mind.
So, Susan takes a deep breath and covers Trina's hand with her own, twining their fingers together.
"Are you sure you don't want me to go?" she asks her friend, "Tom just got back, I don't want to intrude-"
"Don't you dare think about moving," Trina whispers, tightening her grip reassuringly, "Got it?"
Susan nods, a shy smile stretching across her lips, "Got it."
By the fourth time it happens, it's become so familiar that she decides to stop keeping track and simply enjoy the new aspect of their friendship.
It's December twenty second and Susan is still having trouble finding a job so she spends most of the day packing up the house, leaving only the essentials and holiday decorations out. By the time ten o'clock rolls around she's absolutely exhausted and decides to call it a night, gathering her things before padding into the bathroom. Lately, this has been the only relaxing part of her day- brushing her hair, washing her face and sliding into warm pajamas- but halfway through her nighttime ritual she hears someone open and close the front door downstairs.
Her heart races. She sets her foamy toothbrush back on the sink and tiptoes around the corner, grabbing the nearest heavy object- a tennis racket. Don't ask her why it was in the bathroom, BJ was always leaving things in the weirdest places, but as she slips quietly down the stairs, heavy shadows hiding her, she's suddenly incredibly grateful that the kids are with Bruce for the week. She's absolutely terrified.
Susan holds her breath, knuckles white around the wooden rackets grip. She's managed to press herself against the wall only a few risers away from the bottom floor, frozen in place, listening as the perpetrator moved about in her living room, shuffled footsteps growing nearer.
Her stomach rolls, bile threatening to rise against her will. This was it. This is how she's going to die, she's certain of it. Despite her fear, she raises her weapon, ready to strike just as they round the corner. Thankfully, she never excelled at sports in school and misses. That's when the person screams, scrambling backwards into a house plant in the corner of the foyer.
Adrenaline surges through her. She'd been expecting a man, someone big and burly trying to steal her possessions or worse, force himself upon her. She'd expected anything but small form that greeted her, their voice distinctly female.
"Susan?" they ask, "What the hell was that for?"
She squints, her feet crossing the distance between them before her mind could protest, "Trina?"
There she was, a familiar quilt from the lounge wrapped around her shoulders, her dark eyes wide and vulnerable. Susan felt so guilty. She'd almost just assaulted a pregnant woman.
"Oh, God," her voice trembles, scooping Trina up into her arms, "I'm so sorry! Are you alright? I didn't hurt you, did I? "
The other woman chuckles softly and relaxes into the embrace, "I'm fine. A little embarrassed, but fine."
Susan leans back just enough to catch her eyes, "Embarrassed? Whatever for?"
"I couldn't sleep," she whispers, her gaze dropping to the floor for a second, "I saw a light on and didn't think you'd mind if I used your spare key."
"Of course I don't mind. You know that you're welcome here anytime," Susan smiles, relieved.
She reaches up, cupping Trina's cheek, soothing wayward strands of hair behind her ear. The motion calms her, making her relax even further when she feels breath puff gently past her wrist, chilled skin nuzzling into her palm.
"Are you sure you're alright?" Susan asks, her thumb idly caressing Trina's jaw.
Thin fingers tighten around her waist, "I'm sure."
"Good," she sighs softly, "Tom would hate me if I let anything happen to you while he was away."
Trina reaches down and grasps her free hand, squeezing it tightly, "He could never hate you."
That made Susan smile, just a hint at the corners of her mouth and around the edges of her eyes. Sometimes, it was hard to remember that she wasn't alone, especially in a big, lonely house, and this was a much needed reminder that somebody out there cared.
"Come on," she tugs on Trina's hand, leading her toward the staircase, "Let's go to bed."
The other woman follows without question.
The next morning, Susan wakes with her forehead pressed against the nape of Trina's neck, arms wrapped around her growing waist. The drapes had only been halfway closed the night before and the sun shines through them, illuminating the room in a deep, muted gold.
It has been months since she's woken up with someone else in her bed. Everything about it makes her heart sing and her body hum contently, the feeling of a warm body against hers, the intimacy of it all. Without thinking, her thumb caresses the swollen stomach beneath her hand, snuggling deeper into Trina's slumbering form. She was so comfortable. There were just the right number of blankets over them, weighted and soothing, forming a cocoon of warmth around them. Birds chirped their morning songs outside the bedroom window, and the sound of the heat coming on was the only other noise in the house.
Sighing softly to herself, Susan closes her eyes and drifts back to sleep with a smile on her face.
Christmas morning had been an equally blissful and saddening affair spent with her children. Things had been awkward, almost uncomfortably so, but somehow Susan had managed to salvage their time together by making french toast and bacon with the last few ingredients left in the house, a little something to remind them that not everything had to change. Sadly, their time together came to a close early that afternoon, after gifts had been opened and laughs had been had, and the day ended with her lounging on the Deckers' couch with a wine glass in one hand and Tom's fingers grasped loosely in the other. Trina was off in the kitchen putting her newly acquired culinary skills to the test while they watched Miracle on 34th Street on TV.
The Christmas tree sparkles in the corner, a few lingering gifts wrapped with bright colored paper and bows underneath it, just as the sun begins setting over Lake Michigan. She leans into him, shivering despite the roaring fire crackling nearby and is almost relieved when he wraps his arm around her shoulder affectionately.
"You okay, Susan?"
Sighing, she tilts her face upward, a soft smile not quite reaching her eyes, "Truthfully?"
"I have to be out of the house by the first of the month and I still don't have a job or a place to go," looking down at her lap, she frowns when she sees a loose thread hanging from the hem of the sweater that Laurie had handed to her only a few hours before, wrapped in bright red and green paper, "I suppose I could move in with Bruce until I get on my feet, but I don't know..."
Tom brushes a few strands of red hair behind her ear, his eyes softening as he speaks, "Not exactly an ideal situation, huh?"
She huffs, "Not even close."
"Well, today is your lucky day," he smiles, and her eyebrows rise, "We might just have an offer that you won't be able to refuse."
Forty minutes pass by slowly, all of them spent wondering what Tom is referring to, before she finds herself sitting at the dinner table with a surprisingly delicious dinner spread out before them. The ham is a little overcooked, but everything else is otherwise perfect. She almost dared to say that Trina might one day learn her way around a kitchen after all.
"So, what exactly is this offer you were talking about, Tom?"
He swallows thickly and catches Trina's gaze. It's her who speaks up first.
"Well," she starts, "it's not an offer really, it's more of a proposal. We know that you haven't been able to find work yet and don't have money to pay rent... So, what would you say if we offered you the guest bedroom in exchange for being our part time nanny?"
Susan's eyes widen, "Oh, Trina, I don't know. I wouldn't want to impose."
"Please, you'd be doing us a favor. Neither of us has a clue what to do with a baby. Think of it more as a business arrangement- you teach us the ropes on taking care of little no-name here," she chuckles, resting a protective hand on her belly, "and in return you are more than welcome to live here until you've saved up enough for a place of your own."
Her jaw drops open slightly, speechless and overwhelmed by their offer. When she'd woken up that morning, surrounded by nothing but cardboard boxes and a silence, she would have never imagined such an opportunity coming her way. Being friends with the Deckers, spending time with them, was a blessing. She adored and cared for them far more than a normal friend should, especially after they'd helped her through one of the hardest times in her life, and for that she was forever grateful. But, could she really live with them? Could she stay in their expensive house, eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner along side their growing family and not feel like she'd forced them into it?
Susan glanced down at her plate, a tab of butter slowly melting in a mound of delicious looking mashed potatoes, and found herself warming to the idea. She tried imagining a life with them- warm spring days spent with Trina and the baby, breezy nights in late August with Tom in the pool after he got home from a long flight- and came to the realization that it wouldn't be much different than the friendship that the three of them already shared. Yes, she would feel slightly guilty about it for a while, she was a grown woman and should be able to take care of herself, but the pros would far outweigh the cons in the long run.
Looking back up, she met Tom and Trina's awaiting gazes with a tentative smile, "Are you sure I wouldn't be in the way?"
Trina beams at her, "Is that a yes?"
Susan nods, shyly biting her bottom lip. It was a rash decision, she knew it was, but she didn't care. Everything was going to change again, she could feel it in her bones just as surely as she'd felt it last summer. But this time, as Tom grinned and reached across the table to squeeze her hand, she knew that she was making the right decision.