Christian was seated in her office having her morning cup of coffee and thinking about the day's agenda when there was a knock on her door. Looking up she saw one of her regular patrons at the skating facility, the coach of one of the most prestigious skating pairs in the world. "Morning, Lesley. What brings you here? Why aren't you out on the ice with Brandon and Jill?" she asked with a cheerful smile.
Lesley gave a half-hearted smile in return. "Well, I came to talk to you about them. Actually, they have had a falling out and split up. Brandon's left town to go home and try to work things out with his ex, and Jill is just too depressed to go on without him. She's decided to hang up her skates for good," the petite brunette stated.
"That's unfortunate. They were an amazing pair. I thought for sure after they would at least make one more run at the Olympics. It's so close. They can't just take one more shot?"
Lesley shook her head. "Jill is too shaken. It crushed her when Brandon said their personal relationship was over. It was just impossible for her to work with him after that."
"Understandable but still she is quite a talent. She won't find another partner?"
"I wish she would. I was hoping that maybe you could speak to her about it. Right now she just sees me as her coach trying to still push her, but you are friends with them both. Do you think you could talk to her? Maybe she'll listen to reason. It's been her goal to go back for a second gold medal since she won the first time."
Christian shrugged. "Sure. I'll give it a shot. It would be a shame to waste such talent and passion for a broken heart. She'll regret it for the rest of her life."
"That's what I told her, but she won't listen."
"Well, then I'll try to talk some sense into her. Where is she?"
"She's in the locker room packing up her stuff."
Christian wandered down to the women's locker room and pushed open the door. Since it was early, she knew Jill would be the only one in there. "Jill," she announced her presence as she moved toward the younger woman's locker. As she rounded the corner, she saw the auburn-haired girl sitting on one of the benches, her head hung low. Christian could hear the muffled sobs. "Hey. Lesley said I would find you here," she said quietly.
"It's over, Christian. He dumped me."
Christian moved to sit next to Jill on the bench. "I heard. I'm so sorry. I know how you feel about him," she replied, touching the younger woman on the back gently. There were several minutes of silence as Jill simply cried, but Christian finally broke the stillness. "So, Lesley tells me you are calling it quits."
"I just can't go on. He was my partner in every sense. I can't do this without him."
"Is he retiring too, or are he and his ex going to skate as a pair?"
"I don't know. I think they are going to skate."
"Then why don't you do the same? Why don't you find a new partner?"
"I can't skate, Christian."
"You're half of the Olympic gold medalists team. You have every right to be there and to show the world that you are the better of the two. Wouldn't it be great to go there and to beat him and that woman?"
Jill gave her first smile. "It would be kind of nice, but with who would I partner? There is so little time before the Olympics, and he would have to learn the routine."
"I still think it's worth the shot, Jill. You can change your mind later if you want, but don't close the door on your dream simply because Brandon is a jerk. If anything let it fuel you to be the best you can. Prove to him and the world that you are the true champion. I know you can do it."
Jill sat in contemplation for a few minutes. "Maybe you're right. Why should I quit just because he dumped me? I'm good at this. I deserve to be at the Olympics again."
"Yes you do. Now why don't you let Lesley do her job as a coach and help you find a new partner? In the meantime put on those skates, and I'll practice with you until a new partner can be found."
Jill grinned. "I think I will. I didn't know you could figure skate, though. I thought you were just a hockey player."
"I am, but I still know a thing or two about figure skating. I teach some kids lessons. I bet I'm even better than Brandon," Christian teased.
"You're a lot nicer. That's for sure. Okay. I need time to change. I'll meet you on the ice in a few?"
"I'll be there," Christian answered before sauntering out the door. When she made her way back to the rink, Lesley was standing there, shifting back and forth on her feet nervously. "Well, I bought you some time. I don't know if she'll stick with it, but I got her to agree to trying to find a new partner. Until then I'm going to fill in for Brandon."
"You're going to fill in? Do you know how to do the jumps and throws?"
"I know the basics. Remember, I am a coach myself, and when I was a kid, I used to love doing the tricks. I feel confident that I can still do it now. Try me on. Let's see. Besides it's only temporary."
Lesley shrugged. "All right. Let's give it a whirl. Show me what you've got."
Christian stretched as she talked to Lesley and waited for Jill to appear. When the auburn-haired woman came to the rink, she was wearing a determined countenance, so without further delay all three got to work on the routine. However, as they were about to try the first lift, Jill hesitated, causing both she and Christian to misstep and fall. Christian got up and extended her hand to her younger partner. "Look, Jill. You have to trust me. If I didn't think I could do this, I would not put you in jeopardy."
"I know, but at the last second I just had a doubt about you being able to lift me. Do you really think you can?" she asked delicately.
Christian gave a sly grin. "Well, let's find out, shall we?" Going over to where Jill was standing, Christian put her hands on either side of Jill's waist and lifted her straight up in the air over her head before tilting her perpendicular to the ice. After leaving her suspended for a few seconds, she placed Jill gently back on her feet. "Yeah, I think that shouldn't be too much of a problem. You're not that heavy, cutie. Michelle is heavier than you," she teased, referring to her internationally famous ex.
Jill looked up into Christian's dark eyes in awe. "You are a lot stronger than you look, Christian."
Christian laughed slightly. "Just because I'm six years older than you doesn't mean I'm not in my prime, Jill. The ladies like a woman who is in shape, and you know I'm all about pleasing them."
Jill backhanded Christian in the stomach. "I'm sure. All right now. Back to work. Let's do these lifts."
Once their workout for the morning was complete, Lesley pulled Christian aside. "Thanks a lot for agreeing to do this for her. I see a new sense of purpose in her. I don't know what you said, but thank you."
"You're welcome. Just get her the best partner you can. She has something to prove."
A moment passed before Lesley mentioned, "I don't know if I should tell you this or not, but I talked to Michelle last night. She asked about you."
"Really? How is my favorite ex? Ready to leave the closet yet?" Christian sarcastically remarked. In her heart she had cared for the young skater, but since Michelle never had a desire to make their relationship public or permanent, Christian was left with a broken heart. Every time she saw the blonde woman on TV, it served to remind her of how she had loved the wrong woman too much.
"She's fine, busy with preparing for the Olympics and all. She has decided to try again for that illusive gold."
"She has the fire to win it. She just has to keep her mind in the game. That's always been her problem, never being in the moment. She just needs to work on that, and she could win. Did she say anything else?"
"She asked if you were seeing anyone, which kind of surprised me."
"Maybe she's decided it's time to take a peek out of that closet after all. Too bad I won't be by her side when she finally does."
"There's no chance for that?"
"Not anymore. I loved Michelle, Lesley, but it wasn't the right time for either of us. She wasn't ready to proclaim to the world that she was dating a woman from the women's hockey team, but I was ready to tell the world that I had finally found the right woman. We weren't meant to be, but she taught me a valuable lesson. I'll never put my heart out there again like that. She had it from the moment we met. Now I don't give it as freely."
"Well, you'll love again when the time is right," Lesley mentioned, seeing Jill reemerge from the dressing area. "See you tomorrow. Great practice today."
Christian leaned against the wall of the rink as Jill made her way over. She gave the older woman a smile as she touched Christian's arm. "I just wanted to thank you for that pep talk earlier. I just needed to hear that someone other than Lesley still believes in me. You were so right. I need to carry on. I have something to prove, and with a new partner, I will put Brandon to shame."
"I'm sure you will. I'll see you bright and early tomorrow, and we'll start again."
Jill paused a moment before saying, "You know, it's too bad you can't be my partner. You're really good, and I think we work well together. I'm going to be spending all this time getting used to your timing, and then I'm going to have to do it again when I find someone new. Somehow it seems a little silly."
Christian shrugged. "I'm a retired hockey player, not a pairs figure skater. You're a talented woman, Jill, and you deserve to be with someone of the same caliber. Lesley will find him."
Jill nodded. "See you tomorrow."
Over the next few weeks Christian worked with Jill on improving the routine while Lesley kept trying to present new partners to Jill. However, even though all the most talented men in pairs figuring skating were anxious to be Jill's new partner, inevitably the young woman would discard them as an option. On the days that Jill would be trying to work with a new man, Christian would always be with Lesley criticizing every move they made together, trying to figure out who would be the best fit for the gifted woman.
As another man was working with Jill a couple of months later, Lesley and Christian stood by the rink just watching. "This is getting impossible, Christian. She discounts every man I bring in here. Maybe she just doesn't want this as much as she says she does."
"I don't know. With Brandon there was so much chemistry. I think she wants to emulate that."
"That's virtually impossible. The only person she's had chemistry with so far is you. Watching the two of you on the ice together is like watching her and Brandon. There is a spark there between you two."
"She's a good skater. She's been carrying me the whole time."
Lesley shook her head. "I don't think so. You don't give yourself enough credit, Christian. You are a great skater yourself. Granted you don't have the experience that Brandon did, but you more than make up for it in enthusiasm. You have a lot more guts than he did."
Christian shrugged. "Regardless of that, why are we even discussing this? I'm sure there are rules that prohibit two women from competing together as a team."
"I don't know if there is or not. What if I find out that there isn't? Would you be Jill's partner?"
"That decision is for Jill to make. Discuss it with her first. I don't want to put pressure on her. I've been to two Olympics and won medals twice. I'm not motivated by that. Jill has a different goal."
"Would you do it for her, though, if she thought it was a good idea?"
"Probably. You know I can never resist beautiful women, and if the two of you tag teamed me, I doubt I could say no," she joked. "However that doesn't mean this would be a good idea. She wants to win gold. I've never competed internationally in this sport. That's a huge gamble to take. I would hate to disappoint her by not being able to perform up to expectations. She would be better off with someone with experience. That would count more than chemistry at this point, I think."
"I disagree, but it will be up to her. Meanwhile I think I'm going to do some research on the matter."
Changing the subject Christian smiled down at her friend. "You want to go out tonight, Les?"
"Sure. We haven't been out together in a long time. What did you have in mind?" she inquired with serious curiousness. Over the many years they had known each other, occasionally they would venture into more intimate aspects of their friendship, especially if both of them were single.
Flashing her sexy grin, Christian said, "Whatever you want."
"That's what I thought. Is that all you ever think about, getting laid?"
"No but it's a fairly regular thought. If you must know, I've been thinking more and more about Jill lately and her predicament."
"You're not going to get a thing for your new partner, are you?" Lesley teased.
"First of all she's not my partner, but more importantly Jill's not even in my league, not to mention on the same team. There is no point in having feelings for a straight woman. I learned my lesson with Michelle."
"Michelle isn't straight. She just acts that way. Jill is a different story, though. I could see her with a woman if the time and circumstances were right."
"Well, I'm not going to be that woman. Now back to us. Where do you want to go?"
"How about dinner and a movie? I haven't been to a movie in ages."
"And afterwards?" Christian asked pointedly.
"And afterwards if we're both in the mood, we'll go back to my place and exercise each other to sleep," she said quietly, touching Christian lightly on the stomach.
Christian growled playfully. "Sometimes I'm amazed that we never became a couple, Les. The way you touch could drive a woman wild."
"Sometimes it's just too late for dating, Christian."
"However, it's never too late for sex," Christian answered, twirling Lesley around gently, making her laugh before setting the petite brunette on her feet.
"Of course it might be nice if we invited Jill along being that she's alone. We can still do our thing afterwards."
"True. All right. I'll ask her after practice."
When practice was over, Christian went into the locker room after hearing Lesley giving the male skater the same speech she had given the others. Heading back toward Jill's locker, she found that Jill wasn't there, but she heard one of the showers running. Deciding not to walk over, she simply yelled out Jill's name to get her attention.
Nevertheless Jill yelped in surprise when Christian shouted over the noise of the water. "Jeez, Christian. You scared me," she screamed, poking her head out of the stall.
"Sorry," Christian apologized, coming closer so that they could talk in normal voices. "Lesley and I wanted to know if you would like to join us this evening for dinner and a movie."
"I wouldn't be interrupting anything, would I if I went? I know the two of you pretend that you're friends, but I've seen the looks between you. I would hate to ruin a date by being the third wheel."
"Trust me, Jill, you wouldn't be a third wheel. Lesley and I are just friends. It's true that we are physically are attracted to each other, but we'll never be a couple. Please don't be concerned about being the odd man out. You won't. We want you to come."
"All right. That would be nice. It's been difficult to be alone in the apartment now that Brandon is gone."
"Great. I'll pick you up at six then?" Jill gave a nod. "Okay. I'll leave you to get dressed. I'll see you tonight."
Going back to her office, Christian found Lesley sitting behind her desk surfing the net. "Jill's coming with us. I'm going to pick her up at six. You want me to get you first?"
"No, you better not. I would hate to get sidetracked and stand her up," Lesley teased with a seductive arch of her brow.
"Good thinking. What are you doing in here anyway?"
"Researching our little problem. I think I'm going to have to call a few people before I can get a clear answer. I want this to work."
"Maybe you should ask Jill if this is what she wants first."
"I will after I find out one way or the other. I don't want her making a decision without all the facts, Christian. I know you'd be an excellent pair if we can just make it work."
Christian held up her hands in surrender. "Obviously you are going to make this decision for me, Lesley, but don't try to push this idea on Jill. If we can do this, simply let her know it's an option. It's her choice."
"I know. I should get going. I have a lot of work to do. I'll see you and Jill tonight sometime after six."
That evening as Christian went to Jill's door, she paused before she knocked. In the past few months since Brandon had been gone, Christian hadn't gone over like she had the many times the couple had been together. Not sure what to expect, Christian prepared herself for the worst and knocked. Jill immediately came to the door with her things in her hand within a few seconds making Christian wonder if the skater had been waiting on her. Jill didn't even invite her in as she stepped outside and began securing her door. Walking down to the car, Christian opened the door for Jill, earning a gracious smile from her counterpart. Once they had picked up Lesley, the women went to dinner, conversing about skating as usual and Jill's lack of a partner. After a lengthy meal, Jill excused herself to the restroom before they left, leaving Lesley and Christian alone.
"Lesley, I would appreciate it if you didn't talk about the idea of me being Jill's partner in front of me if you do find that we can couple up. I don't want her to think this was my idea. Okay?"
"Okay. Sure. I understand. Speaking of which I did place some calls today."
"Not yet. No one has ever brought this issue up before and the rules are somewhat vague. The board of directors has to discuss it at their next meeting."
"Fortunately for us next week. Being that the Olympics are practically around the corner, they are meeting quite frequently. I hope to have an answer by the end of next week or the one following. I think we have a shot, Christian. No one that I spoke to today seemed outright opposed to the idea. You know I made it clear this was only a professional pairing. It wasn't some big social statement, just two women in need of partners."
"However, it will become a big piece of news if they let us do it. It's never been done before. We'll have to be prepared for a backlash. Some people won't like it, maybe even the judges."
"We'll see. It seemed to help that it was you and Jill, though. Being that you've both been Olympians and medalists intrigued them, I think."
"I just don't want Jill to lose her chance of winning gold, because some judge is discriminatory against two women skating together. You know what I mean? Last time she skated with Brandon, they had to contest their results to get their golds. You know there is bound to be some judge who might mark her lower, because I'm her partner. She needs to think this through completely."
"Well, with the new scoring system, that shouldn't be as much of a problem, but I'll talk to her about it. This is my career too, you know. I have more to lose than medals."
At the movie that night Christian treated both Lesley and Jill to their tickets and snacks. Sitting between them, Christian gave each of them a smile. "This is the best date I've ever been on," she joked. "Maybe I should invite two women out at once more often. It certainly would improve my chances."
Jill laughed as she hit Christian in the arm. "Dream on, Christian. Any woman who would agree to go out with you and another girl at the same time wouldn't have much respect for herself. Either that or she is interested in a threesome."
"And that would be bad why?"
Shaking her head Jill mentioned, "You are as bad as some men I know. I thought lesbians were supposed to be sensitive and attentive, not scoundrels."
"Who told you that?" Christian quipped with a grin.
"All right, you two. You're starting to attract attention," Lesley broke in. "Be quiet."
Once their movie was over, Christian took Jill home first. As they came to a stop in front of her apartment building, Jill smiled at them both. "Well, I would ask you two up, but I wouldn't want to be prolonging Christian's plans to put her moves on you, Lesley. Thanks for the invitation tonight. I'll see you two on Monday," she said, leaning up into the front seat and kissing Christian on the cheek before doing the same to Lesley. "Good night."
Christian waited until she saw Jill had made it safely inside before putting the car in drive. "Well, I guess we really haven't been fooling anyone like we thought we were," Lesley mentioned. "Seems like Jill is on to us being more than friends."
"She's fine with it, though. It doesn't bother her."
"I know. It's just that maybe other people have put it together as well. This wasn't something I wanted people to know about really. You know it was supposed to be just between us."
Christian shrugged. "I know that, but somehow it's gotten out. Maybe it's the way we are around each other. What do you want to do about it?"
"I'm not sure. I like our time together, but there really isn't any connection between us other than friendship. Maybe we should not continue this, at least while we're considering working together."
"That's true. It might prove to be awkward to sleep together while Jill and I were partners. I mean that would make you my coach too. There is that potential for problems."
"Besides, I think I might see sparks between you two off as well as on the ice. I would never want to deny Jill or you a chance at happiness just to satisfy my carnal desires."
"Oh please, not this again. Let's get this straight. There is no way Jill and I will become more than friends or skating partners. It'll never happen."
"Never say never, Christian. It might come back to haunt you."
When they arrived back at Lesley's, Christian let the car idle in the driveway. "Well, am I coming in or just heading home?" she inquired.
Lesley put her hand on Christian's arm. "Christian, it would surprise me if our petition of letting you two skate together was denied, which would make me your coach for the next few months, so I think you better just head on home."
Christian sighed but then leaned to give Lesley a hug. Kissing the smaller woman gently on the lips, she whispered, "Are you sure? We could make this our last hurray before getting down to business. It could be a little something to tide you over for the next few months."
Gazing back into Christian's dark eyes, Lesley replied, "You have a point. In that case maybe you should come up. This probably is my last chance."
"Then we should make the most of it," she stated, releasing Lesley and moving to get out of the car. Escorting Lesley to her door by the hand, Christian waited while the older woman unlocked it.
Lesley looked shyly over her shoulder at the hockey player, momentarily reminiscing about the last time they were together. Christian had always been a bit rough with her, which she thoroughly enjoyed given that she never got that type of treatment elsewhere. The tall dark-haired beauty had a body of steel, which Lesley savored being wrapped in as Christian brought her to peak. Feeling the first stirring of arousal in her own body, she turned to Christian completely and launched herself into her arms. Christian caught Lesley in midair as their mouths came together passionately. Taking them through the door, Christian managed to close and lock it behind her before heading to the bedroom.
The following week Christian and Jill continued to practice together, but Lesley said nothing about the potential of them being a competitive pair and even made it a point to try to get Jill to decide on one of the men that had tried out for the position, given that the Olympics were within a few months time. Figuring that Lesley's request for them to be a pair had been denied, Christian went back to concerning herself with the facility and helping Jill.
However, one morning after practice, Lesley disappeared into the locker room after Jill, saying they needed to speak privately. Christian wondered what was up but went back to her office, knowing that Lesley would fill her in at a later time. She focused on her work half-heartedly expecting Lesley to dawn her doorway with the gossip, but she never came. Instead it was Jill that appeared about an hour later looking decidedly nervous.
"Hey, what's up?" Christian asked, gesturing toward a chair for Jill to take a seat.
Jill closed the door behind her and took the offered chair. She looked around the office for a moment before centering her attention on Christian. "Lesley just told me a little while ago that she made an appeal to the Olympic committee for us to skate as a pair at the upcoming games."
"They said yes," hesitantly Jill answered.
A quite moment passed before Christian said, "I just want you to know that this was not my idea. Lesley thought it would be a good plan. She never even really asked me my opinion on whether or not I thought it was wise. She didn't want to tell you until she even knew if it was an option. She thinks we have chemistry, so she just wanted you to have as many choices available to you as possible."
Jill nodded. "Does that mean you don't want to do it?"
"No, not necessarily. I think the decision is yours to make. You need to weigh the possible consequences of taking that action. If you want me to do this with you, I will, Jill, but if you don't, I won't be offended. I have serious reservations about going through with this for your sake. This won't affect me too much one way or another. This is your dream, your goal. You need to think this through and contemplate possible repercussions."
"I guess that's true. My first reaction was immediately to come ask you, but then as I was showering and getting dressed, I began to think about what it could mean."
"That's why you came in here looking so anxious. Listen. Your decision on this will not affect our friendship. I just want you to know that. I have the same concerns you do but not for me. I am concerned about you. I mean, I'm older and more established in my life and career. Nothing could really happen to me at the Olympics to mess that up. No one cares about my sexuality, but no one on the international sports level outside of my teammates knows. I really don't want that to come back and torment you. Brandon knows that I'm a lesbian. It's already going to be a newsworthy event to see us skating together being two women, and if it gets around that I'm gay, it could negatively affect you and our chances. I've thought about this seriously and voiced those concerns to Lesley. You're young, Jill. I don't want a sexual label to be put on you for making a business decision of this magnitude, and I don't want you to be given lower scores simply because a judge doesn't like two women paired together. Those are my greatest fears for you."
"Thanks for understanding, Christian. Whatever happens, I didn't want this to cause problems for our friendship. When I first remarked about us being a team, I did that without any real thoughts as to what it might mean. I didn't realize Lesley would take it seriously. There is a part of me that thinks I wouldn't be able to get a better partner than you, especially on this kind of notice. You're good, Christian, and we work well together. I guess I just need to figure out if I could take the other pressures that would come with this arrangement. I want to win. I'm going there to get a gold medal, an uncontested one at that. I just want you to know whatever I decide that it isn't personal one way or another."
Christian gave a charming smile. "I know, Jill. There's no maliciousness anywhere in you. I will stand by and support you regardless of what you choose. Just know that I am here for you."
Jill stood and made her way toward the door but just before she opened it, she asked, "Assuming that we do this, are you and Lesley going to carry on your sexual relationship?"
"No. We thought that inappropriate given the circumstances. If you and I pair up, the three of us have to be all business. There would be no room for that kind of thing between Lesley and me."
"If you and I did pair, what would be your motivation, Christian? You've won medals. Why would you do this?" Jill asked curiously.
"My motivation would be you. I am your friend, and I want you to win."
"Is that enough for a gold?"
Christian thought about it for a moment. "I can only promise you my best. I would give you that, because I know how much this means to you. In all honesty though, gold medals don't mean much to me anymore."
"That's what I'm afraid of, Christian. I know you would do your best, but there has to be something driving you toward that gold or else we'll never get there. What would motivate you?"
"I'm not sure."
"There has to be something. Seeing Michelle again?" Christian shrugged. "What about being able to out the bitch for breaking your heart?"
"That would be ironic, wouldn't it? All the time she was trying to hide herself, and we could yank her from that closet with a few words. However, I don't want to hurt her. I still care about her, and I would never out someone who didn't want to be. That's not something I could do regardless of how much she hurt me."
"Well, what about being able to get back at Brandon by pretending we're together?"
"That could be interesting. He would flip. It could totally throw off his performance."
"I'll tell you what. If we beat Brandon, I'll kiss you in front of him," she suggested.
"Now we're talking. I could just see his face now, but what if we beat him and win gold? Then what?"
"I'll kiss you on the podium in front of the world."
"Do you know what you're actually saying?" Christian asked in amusement at the proposal.
"I'm trying to motivate you. The only thing I know that gets you going is women."
"But not at the risk of de-motivating you. I don't want that hanging over your head in the middle of our performance. We want to win gold here not bail, because you get cold feet about kissing. How about this? Kiss in front of Brandon to get him all riled up and after the medals ceremony, you give Lesley and me some much-needed private time."
"Deal," Jill replied, sticking out her hand for Christian to shake.
Christian looked at it and then at Jill's face. "Does this mean we're actually doing this? We really are going to be a competitive pair?"
Jill nodded. "Lesley's right. You really are the best that I've worked with other than Brandon. Part of this is left up to chance anyway with the judges and all. Who really knows what will happen with the new scoring system? We're supposed to be judged on our techniques and performance, not the fact that we're women. We just have to go out and do our best, and I feel most comfortable with you, which means I'll be able to perform at my best. Let's do it, Christian," she said, once again extending her hand.
Christian put her hand in Jill's. "All right. It'll be nice to get back at Brandon for the way he treated you. You deserve better, and it'll be fun to at least pretend that I'm giving you that. Then he'll really know what a mistake he made."
"Great. I'll call Lesley and let her know. We need to get started right away with getting our costumes together and perfecting our two programs. Then of course there is the skating exhibition that Lesley wants us to be in as well. We'll have to come up with something for that, too. We have so much to do. Of course it would probably help to do a few competitions if we can beforehand to get you used to things," Jill said excitedly.
"I'm sure Lesley has already thought of all of that. We're going to do this, Jill, and we're going to win."
"You better believe it."
Two weeks later was their first competitive competition together, and even though they had mentally prepared for the potential chaos, the moment they stepped into the arena, they were mobbed by reporters who all had gotten wind of the upcoming Olympics. Having to shield Jill from them, Christian eventually had to throw a few elbows as she waded through the crowd. Once inside they headed straight to the locker room, but the looks from the other competitors were almost as bad.
Wondering if the cold shoulders were getting to the young woman, Christian dragged Jill into the handicap bathroom stall for a little chat. The young skater was looking to the floor, not meeting the older woman's eyes, so Christian gently lifted the smaller woman's chin with her hand. "You all right?" she quietly asked. Jill gave an unconvincing nod. "Listen, Jill, this is what it's going to be like at the Olympics. People are going to stare at us and give us weird looks. It's something you're going to have to get used to."
"This doesn't bother you?" Jill inquired.
"No, not at all."
Christian smiled. "That's easy. I think the worst possible thing these people can think is that you and I are romantically involved, and I can certainly think of worse things than being mistaken for your girlfriend. In a way it's a compliment to me for them to think I could still get a girl like you," she teased.
Jill laughed. "You're right. I guess it really isn't that big of a deal. I'm just a little nervous about this whole thing."
"Good thing this competition is just for warm ups then. We'll be great, Jill. You'll see. Just focus on our routine. Forget about the stares. They're going to be there from now on, so you'll just have to work around them. Now are you ready to show the world that you are the better half of the Jill-Brandon pair?"
Jill nodded with a smile. "You bet I am. I'm ready to kick his scrawny butt all over this ice."
"Good. Now let's get out there. As far as the media hype, just smile and go on your way. I'll handle everybody."
"I know you will. Don't think I didn't notice a few of those well-placed elbows as we were coming in. Guess that hockey training is good for something."
"Hey. Nobody messes with my partner," Christian replied, turning to go, but Jill held her back.
Pulling the larger woman into a hug, Jill whispered, "Thanks for being here, Christian. I couldn't do this without you."
That day Jill and Christian were scheduled to skate last in the competition, so they simply watched the other routines while they waited for their turn. Brandon and his partner were in the lead as they came down to the last performance, making Jill feel even more nervous, but Christian managed to refocus her before they took the ice. Christian noticed the polite yet reserved applause as they took the ice and knew they had an uphill climb to win over the audience.
As they were getting into position, the taller woman looked at her partner. Taking her hand and leaning toward her ear, she said, "Focus, Jill. We can win this crowd. We just have to put it all aside and do this the way we do it in practice. It's just you and me right now." Jill gave a nod in affirmation before they both set up in their first position.
The performance started out well until the first jump when Jill stepped out of her landing. Realizing that first place was out of reach, Christian just went on, knowing that staying mentally in the game was most important at that point. Pulling Jill to her for the first lift, Christian executed it perfectly, finishing with a flourish and a cocky grin she was known for in hockey to the audience. Jill followed suit when she saw it, and they were quickly back to their customary flawlessness. At the end of the performance after they had given their bows to a roaring audience, Christian ruffled the younger skater's hair teasingly in front of the crowd as they skated off to get their scores.
Taking a seat, they smiled at each other. "We did great, Jill. Not bad for our first official competition," Christian mentioned. A few seconds passed without word from the judges, so she inquired, "How long does this really take to get scores?"
"It always seems longer than it really is," Jill replied, holding on to Christian bicep anxious about their potential scores.
"We really won over this crowd, I think. That's going to help us at the Games. It was awkward at first going out there, but now they know what to expect from us, so that should be a good thing."
Just then Lesley joined them as she said, "That was a fabulous routine. Almost flawless in every way. I knew this was going to be a good idea." Suddenly the scores started being announced, and it soon became clear that Jill and Christian had become an immediate favorite, getting scores that left them in second place. Excitedly they hugged each other before doing the same to Lesley. "Oh, I couldn't be prouder right now, you two. Christian, the fact that you were able to waltz in here without any prior experience and win second place is beyond my expectations. The crowd and judges love you. A little more practice, and we have a real shot at that gold."
"You did great, Christian," Jill said, giving her another hug.
"So did you, Jill. We're going to beat Brandon next time."
"We would've had I not stepped out of that jump, but you were perfect," she stated half in irritation.
Christian took her by the arms and looked down at her. "Let it go. It's over. That was just nerves of skating together for the first time. Everyone misses a jump once in awhile. The key is not to do it in the big moment. It didn't cost us anything major, so don't give it another thought. I won't."
"Thanks, Christian. Brandon used to get upset when either of us messed up. It makes me feel better to know you don't hold it against me."
"Not at all. Now can we stop talking about it and be happy for our great competition?"
"Of course. We'll have to celebrate tonight."
After the medals ceremony, the press still was interested in speaking with them given the novelty of the situation. Both Christian and Jill were much more comfortable with all of them this time and quickly became a favorite of the media as well. Once back at their hotel for the evening, all three women changed before heading out to a celebratory meal. However once back on their home ice, it was all business as usual as they prepared for their next competition.
Two months later was the national competition, and Jill and Christian were excited about the possibilities of beating Brandon and his partner. Being that it was the last official competition before the Olympics, Christian knew she and Jill had to win there in order for the younger skater to have confidence going to the Games. On the night of the competition, it was obvious that they and Brandon and his partner were the contenders for the top two spots, making them the center of attention the moment they entered the arena. However, they were scheduled to go before Brandon that evening, making them a bit more relaxed.
As they took the ice for their routine, both women were all smiles. Looking at the shorter woman, Christian said, "It's just you and me, Jill. We have this."
Jill gave a nod and winked at the brunette. As the music began to play, they both began to feel it completely, finding themselves in a zone in which they knew nothing could stop them. It was almost like a fog. There was so much energy between them that it seemed as if they were truly all alone in the arena. Their chemistry was beyond what either of them had experienced previously, and for a moment it was if they were living through the drama of their music. The passion was more intense and practically melted the ice on the rink as it did the hearts of the judges.
When the performance came to an end, Christian looked at Jill in mild surprise after they took their bow. By the look of Jill's face, Christian knew she had felt it as well. Making their way over to the box to receive their scores, they were joined by Lesley.
"I don't know what that was, ladies, but keep doing it. You were incredible," Lesley stated almost in awe of what had transpired.
Christian smiled down at her companion. Jill returned it but only with half the enthusiasm, making her wonder what was going on with the younger woman. "Jill, you really were on tonight. I think that was the best I have ever seen you skate," Christian mentioned.
"You too, Christian. You were perfect," she replied, nervously eying the judges.
Lesley and Christian exchanged confused glances but didn't have time to inquire as to what was wrong as the scores were announced. With nearly perfect marks, it was obvious that all the other couples had to be flawless to overtake the first position. By the end of the night, Jill and Christian were the top team, but the taller woman could tell Jill was perplexed instead of ecstatic as Christian felt they should've been.
Heading back to their hotel, the older women allowed Jill her quiet time to reflect on their accomplishment, but she was in no better of a mood when they arrived. Instead of the three of them going to dinner, the auburn-haired woman excused herself, saying she just wanted to go to her room. Lesley and Christian went to eat in the hotel bar, but Christian was contemplative.
"Not you too," Lesley said when she came back from the restroom. "What is up with the two of you tonight? You win nationals, and you're both in strange moods."
"I'm fine. I was just thinking about Jill. I don't know what happened out on the ice, but it was nothing short of incredible."
"Tell me about it. It was almost as if the two of you were allowing the judges to see into your private lives. The intimacy and interaction you had tonight was phenomenal."
"Yeah. It did seem like we were exposing ourselves in a way we hadn't before. Maybe that's why Jill is feeling weird."
"Maybe. I have never seen a performance in my entire career like the one you two had tonight. The spark I saw in your eyes I've only seen a few other times."
"Oh really? And when was that?"
Lesley smirked. "When we have been in the throes of passion. It was like seeing the beauty of love watching the two of you."
Christian frowned. "That's not exactly what we were going for, Les. We have gone out of our way to make sure people don't think there is anything going on between us. Maybe Jill felt the same way you did, and she's upset because of it. I never wanted to hurt her professional reputation, and maybe she feels like I have."
"I doubt that. It's because of you that she won nationals tonight. She should be grateful."
"I should talk to her just to be sure. She's usually much more physical with me off the ice, and after we finished, it was like she wanted nothing to do with me. I'd rather not go to the Olympics and salvage our friendship. Medals mean nothing to me."
"I know. What is driving you to do this anyway?"
Christian smiled. "Well, Jill and I made a deal. If we beat Brandon, she will kiss me in front of him, and she'll also leave you and me alone after our Olympic performance to screw like rabbits, because I have been abstaining since we became a team."
"But you beat Brandon tonight. Did she kiss you?"
"No but you know maybe that's why she's upset. When she made that deal with me, she was just trying anything to get me to agree. If that's what is on her mind, I need to talk to her. I can't have that hanging over her head at the Games. She won't do as well."
Conversation about Jill faded away as their food arrived. Quickly they ate before going their separate ways to their rooms. As Christian stepped off the elevator on her floor, she wondered if she should go knock on Jill's door. Making her way down the corridor, she noticed room service already there, so she went up behind them. When the shorter woman came to the door, she was already in her pajamas. Neither woman said anything until they were alone.
Christian looked to the floor for a second before asking, "May I come in for a minute? I wanted to talk to you about something."
"Christian, I'm not really in the mood for a talk right now."
"Fine. What if I talk and you listen? There is just something I need to get off my chest before we go to bed. Would you mind listening to me for a little bit?"
Jill shook her head. "Come on in."
The two took seats at the table next to each other. Jill eyed her food but didn't reach for it. "Please go ahead. I already ate anyway." Christian took a moment to collect her thoughts as she watched her partner start on her salad. "Jill, I came here tonight to let you know that all bets are off regarding us. We beat Brandon tonight. In no way did I want you to feel obligated to me to follow through on our arrangement. I'm here with you, because I want to be, not because you promised me anything. You don't have to kiss me in front of Brandon. In fact, I think I would prefer that you didn't if the idea of that makes you this uncomfortable."
Jill furrowed her brow. "What are you talking about?"
"This mood. I thought maybe now that we had beat Brandon you started thinking about your end of our deal. I just wanted you to know I am releasing you from that part of the agreement."
"You mean you don't want to kiss me?" Jill inquired softly.
Christian looked at Jill quietly for a few moments, not knowing how to answer the question. Finally she just admitted, "Jill, I'm not really sure how to answer that. Is that a trick question? I'm not sure I know what you want me to say."
"How about you just tell me the truth?" she mumbled.
Taking Jill's hand in hers, Christian asked gently, "Jill, what's going on with you? Have you somehow gotten the impression that I want more from you than our friendship?"
"Then what is it? Is it the media? Are they still bothering you?"
Jill shrugged. "I don't know. Tonight's performance just threw me for a loop, I guess. I've never felt that connected with anyone while we were on the ice. I just felt weird that rumors might start about us or something. I'm sorry, Christian. I'm just not as strong as you."
"You and I know the truth, but if you need the world to know it, tell me. I'll figure something out. Tell me what you would like for me to do, Jill, and I'll do it for you. Your friendship means that much to me."
Jill gave a smile. "Thanks, Christian. Your friendship means a lot to me, too. There is something else about tonight that was bothering me."
"You want to talk about it?"
"The whole time Brandon and I were together professionally and personally, we never had what you and I had tonight. It just makes me think. I really thought he was the one for me on both levels, Christian. Tonight makes me wonder if I was deluding myself all along. There were signs. I guess I just didn't want to see them."
Christian nodded. "I see. Well, you live and learn. I know it probably still hurts to see him or think about him, but you will move on. There is someone out there for you. A woman like you is too valuable a commodity not to be snagged."
There was a second of silence as Jill took a sip of her drink and seemed to contemplate the comment. "Do you really think there is someone out there for everyone?"
"I have to. I want to find the right woman, and I have to believe that she's out there and will enter my life at the right time."
"You don't think Lesley is the one?" teased Jill.
"As wonderful a woman as Lesley is, we're not meant to be more than good friends. We'd both be settling if we ended up in a relationship. We just keep each other company and cater to some of the needs that each other has. It's better than going to bed with strangers. We have an understanding. It works for us."
"I guess you have a point there. Since Brandon left there have been nights when I wished someone was there to hold me. Tonight is one of those nights," she mumbled, looking back at her plate.
The comment hung in the air for several moments as Christian contemplated its possible intents. Had it been some other woman, she would've have tried to slip them a line to see if they were receptive to the idea of her being that person. It could've been construed as an invitation. Christian wasn't sure what to think being that it was Jill, so she tread lightly as she replied, "Well, I know I might not be equivalent to Brandon by any means, but I always have a shoulder for you, Jill. If you ever need someone just to hold you, know that I'm here." Figuring she had put the ball back in younger woman's court, she waited to see what kind of a response she would get. Jill didn't reply to it, though, and the rest of the meal was eaten in relative silence.
However once the shorter woman was finished, she asked, "Would you stay a while longer? We could watch a movie or something."
"Sure. That sounds great," Christian answered, helping Jill clear the table. The taller woman put the tray out in the hallway and then joined Jill on the bed since that was the only other place to sit in the room other than the table.
After deciding on a movie, Jill cut off the lights and said, "I'm going to get under the covers if you don't mind. I don't know if I'll be able to make it through this whole movie. I'm a little tired."
"Well, if you want me to go, I will. It's no problem."
"No. I would like for you to stay here. In fact, if you stayed the night, I wouldn't mind."
Christian knew that was as close as Jill was going to get to admitting that she wanted her to stay, so she just said, "All right then. Mind if I join you under those covers? I'm getting a little tired myself." Getting settled together in the king bed, they began to watch the movie. After only a few minutes though Jill put her head on Christian's shoulder. Responding accordingly Christian slipped her arm around Jill's shoulder to hold her.
"Could I tell you something really personal, Christian?" Jill inquired when about twenty minutes had passed.
"Brandon would kill me if he found out I told you this, but he and I would only have sex after we won a competition, and we would fight like cats and dogs if we didn't place in the top three. I should've known our personal relationship was falling apart. I mean who really has sex only after a victory and no other time?"
"And tonight you won. That must be strange for you to win and not get a reward for your efforts."
"Yeah. Instead I'm in bed with my lesbian skating partner. I'm about as far away from getting laid as I could get," she stated.
Feeling as if she should disclose something as well to make her friend feel better, Christian mentioned, "I haven't had sex with anyone since you and I became partners. I know how you're feeling."
"The frustration of it can be overwhelming sometimes. There are moments when I actually wonder if I could have a one-night stand just to get the relief I want, but I just don't have it in me. I want it to mean more, always have."
"There's nothing wrong with that," Christian assured her.
The rest of the movie passed in silence as they lay together. When it was over, Christian noticed that Jill had fallen asleep. Turning off the TV, she closed her eyes as well, pondering how she had gotten into her friend's bed that night and how good it felt at the moment to be holding someone.
In the morning when Christian arrived back to her room, there was a message from Lesley. Giving her a call back, she asked, "What's up, Les?"
"Hey. It's about time you called me back. Where have you been all night? Did you talk to Jill?"
"Yes, I talked to her. I actually spent the night in her room."
"Really?" inquired her coach in interest. "Did you sleep with her?"
"I didn't have sex with her, Les. We did nothing but sleep in the same bed."
"So, did you work everything out then?"
"We had a talk. There was a lot on her mind last night, but we're much better this morning."
"Good. I was afraid that maybe she would want to back out of the Games. I'm beginning to think our little Jill has feelings for you."
"That's ridiculous, Lesley. We're friends."
"I'm not so sure about that. The way she was with you last night on the ice was something new. It was like she was giving herself to you. It was like watching two people loving each other, the give and take, just the air encompassing the two of you was charged."
"Lesley, you've way overanalyzed this. It was just a good routine. That's all. We just had one night where everything clicked, and hopefully we can do it again at the Olympics. Saying that last night was like watching us have sex is not what we were shooting for here."
"Well, I didn't mean it that way. I was just saying that it was like seeing the passion of love. Personally I think Jill is starting to have feelings for you. She always gets emotionally involved with her partners. Furthermore, I think that you, even as much as you're denying it, have a little interest in her as well. You never would have agreed to that bet had you not wanted her on some level. I know you, Christian."
Christian sighed. Wondering if she should admit to the feelings she had last night, she hesitated. "Les, what makes couples good at something like this is their chemistry. Jill and I have something, a connection, and maybe it's growing stronger, but that will only serve to bring us closer together professionally. She's never even been with a woman. Her history would leave me to believe that it's not something she would even entertain. Why me and why now? It doesn't make sense."
"Since when does love make sense, Christian? Do you have any feelings for her or not? Just tell me. You know I won't say anything."
After a second Christian mentioned, "Last night on the ice I felt something. I'll admit I actually felt what you just described. It was like making love in a way, and it made me feel exposed in a way I've never experienced. Then in her room I held her while we watched the movie, and she fell asleep in my arms. She spent the entire night in my embrace. Jill is an attractive woman, and I haven't had anyone in months. I don't know if it's her or just the lack of activity in my life right now. Under different circumstances maybe I would pursue her, but we're a team. I can't force this issue with the Olympics so close. It's not worth it for the sake of the competition, not to mention our friendship."
Pressing the issue Lesley inquired, "Do that mean you're falling in love with her?"
"I don't fall in love, Les," she stated, but the moment she did, she realized that it was in an effort to convince them both that nothing could happen. In her mind Christian had longed for Jill that night in bed. The petite body cuddled up against her was almost more than bearable to the hockey player. The years that she had known Jill, she had always thought that if her friend ever seemed interested in her she would want to take that step, because she did have more than platonic feelings for the woman. However she had never imagined herself in the position of Jill's skating partner, and she knew that in order for them to do their best, things had to stay platonic instead of romantic between them.
"I don't know if you're just saying that to convince me, or you're trying to tell that to yourself. Christian, it would be okay if you were interested in her. A long time ago you shared some of your thoughts about her when she first began to skate at your facility. Do you remember? I know you are attracted to her physically. I think you two would be a cute couple."
"Lesley, I just can't even entertain that idea while we're working together. After the Olympics maybe, but until then I have to at least pretend I'm cool with just being friends. I would appreciate it with we could not talk about this anymore. I have a job to do for Jill, and I'm not going to mess that up by dragging emotions into it. All right?"
"Fine. I won't bug you about it until after the Games. Okay?"
"Great. Now what time are we leaving today?"
The day that the three of them arrived for the Olympic Games, there was a horde of media waiting on them as they reached the Olympic village. Lesley politely but firmly explained that no interviews were going to be given that day since Jill and Christian needed their private time to mentally prepare for their first performance the following day. Going up to their three separate rooms, each of them began unpacking for the two-week stay. They had decided that since each of them felt this would probably be their last Games, they would like to participate in the Opening Ceremonies, so once they were settled and had eaten an early dinner, they dressed in their required paraphernalia and set out to join the other athletes from their country. As they just stood socializing a feminine voice yelled out over the crowd at Christian.
Even without turning to see, Christian knew who it was. Preparing her best smile she turned to see her ex moving through the crowd at them. "Michelle, great to see you," she said, moving to give the blonde woman a hug.
Michelle hugged Christian tightly around the neck as she nuzzled the taller woman's neck for a moment. "It's so good to see you, Christian. Ever since I heard you were skating with Jill, I've been counting the hours until I could see you." Smiling at Jill she gave her an excited hug as well. "Jill, how are you?"
"Pretty good. How about you, Michelle?"
"Great. I can't wait to compete. I'm going to come watch, you two. I know you can win. I saw your performance at nationals, and it was amazing."
"Thanks. I hope you win as well. You deserve it more than anyone," Christian said sincerely. "I hope to be able to see your routines, too."
"I'd like that," Michelle replied, giving brunette a shy grin. "Well, I need to see a few more people before we get started. I'll see you two later, though."
Christian watched the petite woman disappear in the crowd. She gave a sigh as she thought about all the time she and Michelle had spent together. Feeling arms slip around her waist from behind, she turned to see Jill looking up at her. "I know. I know. I knew it was bound to happen at some point. I guess I wasn't as prepared as I thought I was to see her," Christian confessed. "I loved her, Jill."
"I know. You don't have to explain yourself to me. I understand. I have an ex here, too, you know. Even worse we have to compete against him."
Christian put her arms around Jill as she smiled down at her. "Thanks for being nice to her. I know you don't necessarily like her."
"Only because she hurt you. I think she's a nice woman, but it makes me angry that she broke your heart for no other reason than she was scared of the commitment."
They just looked at each other deeply for a few minutes wrapped in their embrace, and for a moment it seemed like they were the only two in the crowd of thousands. Suddenly it was broken by Brandon's unmistakable voice. "Hey, Jill, Christian. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
Christian met his eyes. "Hey, Brandon. Of course not. Jill was just consoling me over Michelle, who just came over to talk. How are you?"
"All right. I just wanted to wish you two luck tomorrow. With a little luck we might even get a sweep, if the Russians mess up anyway."
Christian felt her partner leaning even further into her. They hadn't bothered to let go of each other, and the younger woman had taken Christian's hand. Sparing her a glance, the hockey player said, "Best of luck to you as well, Brandon. I think it'll be a good competition."
Brandon looked down at Jill who had said nothing through the exchange. Meeting Christian's gaze again, he said, "Well, I'll see you on the ice."
As he walked away, Christian leaned down to Jill's ear and whispered, "It'll be okay. Just remember all those reasons your relationship didn't work. Regardless of what he looks like now, he's the wrong man for you. He doesn't deserve you. You're better off without him."
Jill sighed. "I know. It's not him so much, Christian. I just wish I could find someone who makes me happy, and I was happy with him for a time. Just now he looked the way he did six years ago when we first got together, so handsome and charming."
"He's just trying to mess with your head, you know. He knows we're his toughest competition, and if he can throw us off, he's a got a better shot at the gold. We're not going to let that happen. That gold is ours. It's what we've been working for. He dumped you to go back to his ex wife. Now he realizes that was a big mistake, because we are the better team, so he's trying to play mind games with us. Don't let him get to you."
Jill gave a nod. "Why do you think I was cuddling with you? I was trying to play some on him as well. I still think I should kiss you in front of him."
"It's up to you. Whatever you want to do is fine."
"If we are in contention for gold and so are they, I'm going to sometime before the long program."
"Fine but not in front of the press. We don't want that hanging over our heads going into the final part of the competition. We have to be discreet about it."
The following morning the trio was up early for a little practice on the ice before the beginning of competition. Both of them seemed all business and completely in their zone again, which they knew would help them that evening. They were scheduled to go last that night based on the random selection of order, leaving them a lot of time to watch the other couples and think about their own performance. As they just sat together in the locker room watching the monitor of different performances, Jill took Christian's hand.
"Christian, I just want you to know again how much it means to me that you are here as my partner. I couldn't have done it without you."
"It's my pleasure to be here with you. We're going to go out there and win tonight. Then two days from now we're going to win the long program, and go home with those golds. This is our final moment, and we're going to walk away winners. This is the second to last time we ever grace the ice in competition. Give me everything you have, Jill, and I'll give you all of me as well. Let's put it all on the line and show everyone exactly who we are."
When it was their turn to take the ice, Christian took her partner by the hand as they skated to the center. The audience was cheering loudly for them, making them both smile. Jill looked at Christian and gave her a thumbs up as if to say she was ready to which Christian nodded in return. As the music came to life so did they. Christian focused on her partner, the graceful line of her petite companion and made each move to further exhibit the beauty of her. As their gaze connected just before their first throw, the stronger woman could read in the warmth of Jill's eyes that she felt the flicker of passion that any moment threatened to consume them. However, instead of pulling away from it, both of them leapt into the fire that was theirs alone.
Even after the music faded into nothing, and they held their last position, their eyes communicated that something had transpired between them, something that even in other competitions they had never experienced. Finally Christian said, "We better bow. They are clapping for you."
"They're clapping for us, Christian," she said with a smile, taking her hand.
Together they bowed to their audience on all four sides before Christian did the customary ruffle of her partner's hair as they skated to the box. As they took their seats, Lesley came to join them. "Keep this up and you have a gold," she remarked. "You were unbelievable."
As they waited on their scores, Jill took hold of Christian's hand and squeezed it tightly. "You were great, Christian, so strong and powerful. The judges always like that."
"And you were beautiful, so graceful and dignified."
"You thought I looked beautiful?" Jill asked with a blush.
Christian glanced at Lesley as her friend's warning of Jill's feelings came to her mind. Not sure if Jill was aware of her flirtation, she replied cautiously. "Of course, Jill. You always have the perfect lines and moves. You're one of the very best in this sport. I'm just lucky to have you as a partner." Just then the scores started being announced. As they looked at them, Christian noticed that a they were only good enough for second place behind the Russian pair but left Brandon and his partner in third.
"Those seem a little low for that routine," Lesley mentioned under her breath.
Nevertheless Christian and Jill smiled for the crowd, even though they were both disappointed inside. Heading back to the locker room, each of them was in their own thoughts about that night, but the brunette knew she had to say something to the younger skater to keep up her spirits. Seeing that they were alone, she pulled the shorter woman into her arms. "Well, look at it this way. We accomplished our first goal. We beat Brandon tonight, and we're in second place, which is a perfect place to be going into the long program. We don't have the pressure like the Russians do to maintain that position, but we don't have an uphill battle like Brandon does. Second place has the least amount of pressure. We can still win this, Jill. We just have to do as well or even better than tonight."
"I skittered on a landing, Christian. That's why we're not in first."
"So did I, Jill, but it's okay. Tonight is over. We're in second and less than one tenth behind the leader. That's nothing. That gold is ours. We just have to perform the way we know we can. I'm proud of what we did tonight, and I'm especially proud of you. You were elegant and composed. I think we skated better tonight than we ever have. We do this again, and we'll have our golds. Everyone knows that the Russians have never had back to back perfect performances. Tonight they were on, so that means they'll be off in the long program. We just have to capitalize. We're as good as gold."
Jill smiled at her. "Thank you, Christian. You really are the best partner I've ever had. Brandon would've been on me about the mistake. He wouldn't have been able to let it go."
"I've already forgotten. Now let's get out of here and get some rest. We need to have some time to prepare for our next routine. This one is over. I don't want you thinking about it again."
"Done," Jill answered, giving Christian a hug.
Going back to their accommodations, the two of them hung back as Lesley went inside. Lifting both of their bags onto her shoulders, Christian asked, "You feel like staying up a little while, or do you want to be alone?"
"We could do something. What did you have in mind?" Jill inquired, leading the way inside.
"I don't know. Nothing too strenuous of course. We have practice in the morning," she said as they paused to wait on the elevator.
Jill smiled up at her, but then Christian noticed Jill look away for a moment. When she looked back, she stepped even closer, putting her arms around Christian's neck and leaning up on her tiptoes. Pulling Christian's head down toward their own, their mouths met in a sensuous kiss.
Christian moaned against the assault. It had been forever since she had felt the touch of a woman, and for a split second she forgot it was an act as she went back for more. Jill responded favorably, allowing Christian's tongue to invade her mouth as they pulled each other's bodies even closer.
Before Christian could lose control of herself a questioning voice called out, "Jill?"
Jill pulled away like she was surprised to have been interrupted. "Oh, Brandon, I didn't see you come up."
Christian's heart sunk as she realized it had only been a performance and that the kiss had not been real. Admonishing herself for not recognizing that sooner, Christian turned to Jill's ex as well. "Hey, Brandon. Good job tonight."
"Thanks," he said, looking between them. "You did well, too. I just came over to ask if you two wanted to have a drink with us at the bar."
Jill gave him a sexy smile. "Thanks for the offer, but Christian and I need a little alone time tonight. We just want to go up to bed. Maybe next time."
Looking between the two women again, he nodded. "Sure. Next time then. Have a good night," he mumbled before turning to leave.
Both women then stepped on the elevator to go upstairs. As the doors closed, Jill mentioned, "Sorry I didn't have time to warn you. He was right there, and it was the perfect chance. You really caught on quickly. You're are quite the kisser, even when you're acting."
"Yeah, well, thanks," Christian replied quietly.
"You all right?" Jill inquired, moving in closer.
"I'm fine. I'm tired. Maybe we should call it a night. I think I just want to have a soak in my Jacuzzi and go to sleep. We have to stay on top of our game. Staying up late wouldn't be prudent."
Jill nodded in agreement. "I guess that's true. We need to stay rested. I guess I'll see you for breakfast then?" she asked as the elevator opened to her floor.
"Yep, bright and early."
"Good night, Christian."
"Night, Jill. Great job tonight."
As Christian went into her room, she dropped her bag on the floor. Immediately she headed into her bathroom to begin the water for her soak. Stripping off her clothes, she slipped into the hot water and closed her eyes. Thoughts of Jill flooded her mind. The feeling of the younger woman's mouth on her own made her groan, half in ecstasy and half in anguish over what she couldn't have. When Jill had embraced and kissed her, she felt everything slip away except what she had in her arms. There was more in that one kiss than she had ever felt with anyone else, even Michelle. Christian knew at that moment that she had fallen in love with her skating partner when she wasn't even paying attention. She had concentrated so hard on carrying the smaller woman to victory that she never had stopped to contemplate what was driving her. Now it was clear that her motivation had been Jill's affections. Now that she had come to know her emotions she wondered if she could keep them to herself through the remainder of their competition. Christian knew that having any sort of serious talk with the auburn-haired woman could potentially harm their chances, so she felt she had no other option but to keep quiet the next two days. When the hockey player came down to breakfast, Jill and Lesley had already ordered. Christian dropped into a chair next to Lesley and mumbled a greeting toward them as she stared into her menu.
"What's up with you today? Didn't sleep well?" Lesley asked.
"Not at all. I'm in a bad mood, so it would be best just to leave me alone for a bit. Hopefully with some food things will improve."
Taking the advice neither woman spoke to her through the entire meal, chatting amongst themselves. Every once in awhile Christian would look up from her plate at Jill. She had thought of the young woman almost the whole night, and what little sleep she did get was spent dreaming about the body she wanted to know so badly.
Over at the skating rink, they settled in to do their routine, but Christian was completely off during practice. She fell on almost every jump she made and her lifts and throws were less than exemplary. Finally when it appeared it couldn't get any worse, Christian almost dropped Jill as she lowered her from over her head.
Flustered by almost hitting the ice head first, Jill scowled at Christian. "What is wrong with you today?" she snapped.
"I'm so sorry, Jill. I didn't mean to almost drop you. I'm just not with it today."
"Well get with it! You could've hurt me!" she yelled, skating off the ice to cool down.
Christian just watched her go before crumpling to the ice in a heap. Tears flowed from her eyes as she cried out her frustration of the previous twelve hours. Seeing Lesley come over to her, she sat up and wiped her eyes. "I'm sorry, Les. I'm just having an off morning."
Taking a seat next to her, Lesley tenderly stroked Christian's dark hair. "What's wrong, Christian? You've never been this out of step."
"Something happened to me last night, and I just can't get it out of my head."
"I realized I was in love with Jill," she mumbled.
"Well, of course you are. I thought you knew. You seem to show it in everything that you do. How did you figure it out?"
"She kissed me."
"That's great. That means she feels the same."
"It was an act we decided to put on in front of Brandon. She didn't mean it."
"But you felt the connection?"
Christian nodded. "I spent the whole night thinking about her and analyzing the last few months. It's been so gradual that I just never noticed, but I know with certainty that I do love her, Lesley. I don't know what to do. Knowing I had to face her today after the thoughts I've been having was hard for me. I don't want her to know, but I'm not sure how to hide it well."
"Well, if it's any consolation, she feels the same about you. She definitely has romantic feelings for you."
"How do you know that? Did she say something to you?"
"Not in words but I've been her coach for ten years. I know her well enough to know when she has feelings for someone. She looks and acts toward you the way she did with Brandon in the beginning."
"I don't want to screw up our chances at gold by trying to figure this out beforehand. We have to focus only on this, but my head just isn't here. It's with her off in some remote location exploring every inch of that perfect body of hers. How can I skate with those thoughts? Being that close to her brings them out in my mind. Every touch makes me want her more."
Lesley sighed as she hugged her friend. "You have to concentrate, Christian. You are a professional, and you are good at what you do. I know you have it in you to put this aside for the few minutes it's going to take to put on a perfect routine. You have a chance at Jill, but you have to win that gold medal first. Winning that is like winning her heart. She will be open to your advances after you win."
"So you're saying we have to win or else I'll never have a chance?"
"I don't know that, but I do think if you don't win, Jill will fall into depression, because it will be her last time on the ice and not to come away with it will be hard for her. Winning that medal will elate her spirit, Christian. It would surprise me if she didn't jump into your arms on the medal stand."
"And if she doesn't?"
"Then you two will find each other later, but the feelings you have are mutual even though neither of you has ever expressed them. That is why you two are such a great pairing. You show your love for each other in your performance. It's like you two take on the people you wish you were for a few minutes and show the world the emotional side of yourselves. That's why you're so good. You expose your inner most feelings through your routine."
"Do you think the judges see that? We don't want them to think that about us."
"They don't see what I do. They see the great chemistry as does the crowd, but they don't know exactly why you two have it. They only know that you do. Only I know why you are the way you are. Try to think about this performance differently, Christian. While we practice the rest of the morning, I want you to focus on using yourself as a tool to make her look more beautiful and graceful than she's ever been. Help her inner loveliness pour forth by being exactly on your marks. Timing yourself perfectly with her will serve to make her shine. Try it for me?"
"Sure. I'll try anything at this point. We're too close to lose it now."
"Great. I'm going to go find her and calm her down a bit."
Several minutes passed before Jill and Lesley returned to the ice. "Jill, again I'm sorry about earlier," Christian apologized.
"It's okay. We all mess up. I'm sorry for yelling. You've been so great to me whenever I've screwed up. I never should've been so harsh. I was just scared there for a moment when the ice looked a lot closer than it should've."
Christian nodded meekly. "Could we try it again?"
The rest of the practice followed without any serious problems. Even though they were still slightly out of footstep with each other, there were no more falls or close calls. At the end of it, Lesley said, "Okay. Sometime today I want each of you to go over this routine in your head. I want you to visualize it, every move, jump, throw, and landing. I want you to do a perfect performance in your minds. Tomorrow morning will be our last practice before the big event, so we'll be going at half speed. I don't want to tire you out, so just do some extra preparations today. Spend sometime in private reflection on what you need to accomplish and how to make it happen. We can do this. The gold is as good as ours as long as we remain controlled, relaxed, and focused."
That afternoon Jill and Christian went their separate ways, each spending time with other athletes that had become friends over the years. Christian went to watch her former teammates of the women's hockey team win their game that day and afterwards went out with them to celebrate. Knowing she had to call it an early night, she left them around ten to head back to her room. Settling down for the night, she went through the routine one more time in her mind. She knew that Lesley was right about winning the gold. It would be key in winning Jill's heart, so Christian resolved to give the best performance she could, holding back nothing. There were more than just medals on the line. Her future happiness now rested in the results of their routine.
Practice the next day was all business. Both Jill and Christian seemed determined and had a flawless practice. Lesley encouraged them at the end to spend a little time after lunch visualizing the event again before taking a mental break. The two skaters didn't spend any time together that day until they went to the skating facility for that evening's event. They were supposed to skate last again that night, so they spent the entire night in the locker room watching other performances on the TV screen and preparing themselves for what they needed to do. As the time came nearer, they both changed into their costumes, but Christian kept a close eye on the monitor to see how their competition was doing. Brandon and his partner were in first place, but the Russians had yet to skate. As they took the ice, Christian knew they were next.
Going to where Jill was sitting on the bench tying her skates, the older woman knelt next to her. Taking her by the hands, she smiled up at her auburn-haired friend who held her heart. "Jill, being that this is our last official competition tonight, I just wanted you to know what an honor it has been to be your skating partner. You are one of the world's best, and to be the one you chose for such a moment is quite an distinction. Tonight as we take the ice I want you to know that no matter what happens, I will always hold you in highest regard. I know deep in my heart that we can win tonight. Let's go out with a bang and give them something to talk about for years to come. Let's make this the performance of our lives and make it such a routine that we go down in history as one of the best pairs that ever graced the ice. What do you say?"
Jill smiled. "Let's do it."
Going out to their waiting place, Jill closed her eyes as if she was trying to make her last mental preparations. However, Christian kept her eyes on the rink and noticed that the Russians had taken a fall during their routine, giving them lower marks than Brandon.
Just before they were announced, Lesley made her way over and hugged them both. "Let's show them who the champions are, ladies," she stated.
Christian took Jill's hand and guided her toward the center of the ice as they were announced. Taking one last look at her, she gave a supportive smile. "We are the best, Jill. Let's prove it. The gold belongs to us."
Hearing the music cue up, the routine began. Christian centered her complete attention on Jill, heading the instruction from Lesley the other day about making her look her best. She put her heart and soul into her skating, showing through her eyes and expression how much she adored her partner, and in turn Jill seemed to feed off of it. For a moment in time, the world belonged to just them, and whatever they did was perfection. When the music ended and they broke from their last position, tears cascaded over both their faces as they embraced in a tight hug on the ice. The audience roared with the loudest intensity of the night as they took their bows. Not being able to resist, they embraced again, skating across the ice that way to the box.
Taking their seats they put their arms around each other again to help calm the nervous excitement. There was sense in the air that history could be made that night, and they knew that their performance couldn't have been better if they had been partners for years. "I'm proud of you, Jill. No matter what, you are the champion in my heart," Christian said.
"You too, Christian," Jill replied, anxious eyes on the judges.
Lesley came up and hugged them both but no words were needed to express what everyone was feeling. The excitement of a perfect routine was outweighed by uneasiness over what the judges would give them. Christian knew her partner had to be thinking about her previous experience with Brandon when the judges had slighted them and prayed fervently that it would not happen again. The seconds passed like hours and then their fates appeared for all the world to see. As the first set of marks were presented, Jill gave an nervous smile. They were nearly perfect as Brandon and his partner's had been. However, when it got to the presentation marks, three perfect scores appeared, making both of them smile, even though they still had not received their overall placement. Jill closed her eyes, burying her head in Christian's shoulder as the final scores were announced. It was a seesaw between first and second place until the last judge. Christian took a deep breath, hoping for the best. When the final score for first place was presented, Jill and Christian both jumped up and screamed, hugging each other fiercely as the tears began again.
"Oh God, we did it," Jill mumbled repeatedly for a few seconds still jumping in excitement in Christian's arms.
"Yes, we did. We did everything we said we would. Your dreams have come true."
"Oh thank you, Christian. Thank you so much."
Turning to Lesley they hugged her as well before waving to the crowd. Knowing that they had to go change for the medal ceremony, they headed back to the locker room. As they came to the door, they saw Michelle standing there smiling brightly. "Congratulations, you two. That was the best pair routine I've ever seen," she said, giving them both hugs.
"Thanks, Michelle. That means a lot coming from one of the best in history," Christian mentioned. "We have to get ready for the ceremony. Excuse us."
"Of course. I just wanted to tell you how happy I am for you."
Jill moved through the door, and Christian was about to do the same when Michelle touched her on the arm. "Christian, you really did well. I'm very impressed. It's too bad you didn't realize this talent sooner."
"I'll always be a hockey player at heart. That's my sport. Now I really have to go. I'll see you around."
As Christian entered the locker room, she noticed the flurry of activity. Congratulations for all the medalists were going around all in a friendly manner, making it somewhat difficult for her to change into her warmups again, but finally she and Jill were left in semi-privacy. Quickly they slipped into the patriotic sweat suits before heading back to the rink for the presentation. When they took the podium with Brandon to their right as the silver medalist and the Russians to their left as the bronze, a sense of satisfaction overcame Christian. When she had retired from hockey, she never imagined that she would be in the Olympics, much less a gold medalist again. When the medals were bestowed on she and Jill, they hugged each other. Going with the moment, Christian snuck a kiss onto Jill's cheek before tousling her younger partner's hair in what had become a signature move on her part, except the younger woman took it as the perfect opportunity to retaliate, messing up her friend's in front of a happy crowd.
That night back at their quarters, celebration ensued for the gold and silver medalists. As Christian and Jill had their first drinks since they began working together, Christian toasted her partner for all her efforts. Jill smiled pleasantly at all the complimentary remarks, but the hockey player sensed that Jill was feeling the bittersweet moment more than she. After all, she had retired once already, so she knew the rush of emotions of recognizing the dream was gone, having been brought to fruition. Figuring the young woman was realizing what it meant to have her last competition come to an end, Christian allowed her the chance to reflect on her skating career. As the night wore on, Christian wondered what her relationship with Jill held now that they were no longer under the commitment of their professional relationship. Sliding up to her at the bar, Christian put an arm around her.
"How are you doing, cutie?" she asked, draining the end of her beer.
"I'm all right. You're feeling good, I bet," she said as the bartender brought Christian another beer.
"I'm feeling wonderful, because I helped make the dream of one of the best women in the world come true tonight. You really are magnificent, Jill, and I'm glad you chose me."
Before Jill could comment, Lesley came up to them, wrapping her arms around Christian's shoulders. "There's my favorite hockey player," she teased, taking a sip of the beverage in Christian's hand.
Lesley ordered herself a drink as Jill and Christian just looked at each other in contemplation. After a moment Brandon walked over to them. "Congratulations, Jill and Christian," he said, extending his hand to the brunette.
"You too, Brandon."
Turning to Jill he hesitantly said, "Jill, I was wondering if I could talk to you. I've been wanting to since I saw you at the Opening Ceremonies, but I wanted to wait until the competition was over. Could we go somewhere for a little bit?"
"No, she has to stay here with Les and me. We have to celebrate," Christian protested. "You can talk tomorrow."
Jill looked at Christian and Lesley hanging on her before saying, "I'm an adult, Christian. If I want to talk to Brandon, I can. Besides we had a deal. It's time to keep my end of it. You two have a good night together. I'm going to talk to Brandon and then go upstairs to bed. I'll see you tomorrow."
Christian looked on in confusion as Jill walked away behind Brandon. Taking a sip of her drink, Lesley asked, "What kind of a deal did you two make? I thought it was only about the kissing."
"No. I made her promise that if we won, she would leave me alone so you and I could have sex. I told her I had been abstaining for the sake of our professional relationship. However seeing as that now we are no longer under that, she thinks I'm going to sleep with you."
"But you want to sleep with her not me."
"She doesn't know that. She thinks I want you, and now she's gone off with her ex to who knows where to do who knows what. If he tries to take advantage of her, I'll kill him. She's mine."
"She's not yours unless you tell her how you feel. She doesn't know that you love her, and it's clear she has no intention of telling you how she feels either. You're going to have to say something if you want her to be yours."
"Suddenly I don't feel much like celebrating anymore. I think I just want to go to my room," Christian mumbled, finishing her bottle of beer.
"You want some company?"
"Sure. I don't feel much like being alone either right now."
Lesley put her own drink on the bar before taking Christian's hand. "All right. Come on. Let's get out of here."
The next morning after a sleepless night of wondering what Brandon could've possibly wanted to say to his ex, Christian arose early for the interview she and Jill had to give. Taking a shower and making herself presentable, she called Lesley to let her know she would meet her in the lobby for breakfast before heading down to her partner's room. Knocking on the door, she awaited the pretty woman's answer. However, when the door opened, it was not Jill's face that greeted her but Brandon's. Looking obviously confused she asked, "What are you doing here?"
"What's it look like? I'm standing here talking to you," arrogantly he replied, intentionally being vague.
"She's in the shower. We got up late. Sorry about that."
Christian felt her heart breaking, but she wouldn't give Brandon the satisfaction that he was affecting her, so she simply said, "All right. Just tell her that Lesley and I already went to breakfast and that we have to leave as soon as possible for the interview."
"Sure. We'll be down in a few. We'll meet you there."
Heading down to the restaurant to meet Lesley, Christian took deep breaths, trying to control the emotions that threatened to consume her. As soon as she walked over to the table where Lesley was sitting, her friend asked, "What is wrong? You look like you've just been shot in the heart."
"I just came from Jill's room. Brandon answered the door when I knocked," Christian mumbled.
"Now don't jump to conclusions. They could've just been meeting for breakfast, and she wasn't ready yet. There could be an explanation."
"He said they had gotten up late, Les, as in he spent the night with her. You know they weren't just talking all night. How could I be so blind? She doesn't care for me, never did. Her feelings are still for him."
"I don't think that's true, Christian. I've seen the way she looks at you. She adores you," Lesley said, touching Christian's arm in consolation.
Christian shook her head. "He looked so smug, Lesley. He knew it would hurt me to see him there, especially since she wanted him to think we were together. If they had sex, he knows it was a lie, either that or she doesn't care for me enough to be monogamous. Either way it doesn't look good for me. Why did this happen again? First Michelle and now Jill. Why do I continually have feelings for unavailable women?"
"I don't know what to say, Christian, except that I think you're wrong. I know she has feelings for you. There has to be an explanation."
"But I'm in no position to demand one from her. It's her right to do as she chooses. I'm so glad this is over now. Thank goodness we only have one more performance to do and that it's only an exhibition, because I'm not sure I could handle being with her after this."
"So what are you going to do?"
"What any sensible person would. Go about my own business. If she wants to come to me, that's fine, but I won't make any overtures toward her. I will not make a fool of myself like I did with Michelle," she stated firmly. Seeing Jill and Brandon enter, she said, "Here they come. Just act normally." Instead of coming to the table where they were seated, they went to the buffet line before taking a seat on the opposite side of the restaurant. "See. Look at that. She's ignoring me," Christian grumbled.
When the three of them headed off to their interview the ride was drearily quiet. Christian spent the whole ride staring out the window as Jill pretended to be interested in examining her outfit. Lesley just looked at them, shaking her head at the obvious display of hurt on both sides, proving to her that Jill did have a deep attraction for the hockey player. As they stepped out of the van to go into the studio for their conference, Lesley took them by the arms. "Look, you two. Whatever happened last night needs to be put aside. You two can be upset on your own time, but right now we need a united front. Put on your game faces, girls, if you have to, but don't ruin this moment. You have made history. Don't spoil that distinction with these attitudes."
Christian spared a glance at Jill, but the smaller woman wouldn't meet her eyes. "We'll do our best," she stated.
As soon as they walked into their interview, both of them were all smiles, even though the three of them knew it was a great act. Acting friendly toward each other, they let their supposed comradery show through as they played with and teased each other during the conference. To the untrained eye things looked normal between them, but as soon as it was finished and they were left in privacy, their horrific moods returned. Christian sulked off to the skating rink to be alone when they got back to the hotel, leaving Jill and Lesley just staring at each other.
When she got there, she noticed that Michelle was working on her routines for the competition. Watching quietly Christian thought about her feelings for Jill. Regardless of how pained she felt, she still cared for the younger woman. When her ex's practice had come to a pause, Christian called out to her.
Michelle smiled when she noticed the dark-haired woman standing rink side. "Hey. What a surprise. What are you doing here?"
"Just went out for a walk. That's a great routine you have there. Did you come up with the choreography yourself?"
"Yeah. I've been doing it all on my own for the past few months. I figured I didn't need a coach anymore, because if I don't already know all that I need, I'm not going to learn it. Since this was my last time, I decided to go it alone."
"That's such a big responsibility. You have no one to help you with refinements or anything, no one to sit with you in the box. Isn't that nerve-wracking to sit alone while you wait for your scores?"
"Sometimes. I didn't consider that before I fired her, but there are times when I wish there was someone there to support me during those crucial moments."
"Especially now. This is the big time. You should have someone in your corner."
"I have my dad here just for that reason."
"Well, that's good then. I would hate for you to be completely alone. Someone should be right there with you when you win that gold," Christian said with a smile.
"It's now or never. Last time at the Olympics I said I was retiring, but I just couldn't when there was something out there that I hadn't won."
"I know. I knew when you first announced your retirement that it wouldn't last."
"This time I'm serious, though. I just can't do it anymore the way I used to. I'm not at the top of my game anymore. I'm going to have to get really lucky to win. Some of the other competitors are going to have to mess up in order for me to do it."
"Well, at least you have experience on your side. All your nearest competitors have never been to the Games before. Maybe that can work to your advantage."
"I hope it will."
There was a pause in talk before Christian said, "I'm looking forward to seeing you perform. You truly are one of the most graceful women that ever skated."
Michelle gave a blush. "Well, that means a lot coming from the newest champion."
"Are you finished here?" Christian inquired.
"No, not for a little bit. Why?"
"Well, when you are, would you like to go to lunch with me?"
"I'd love to. Why don't you wait here for me? I'll only be another half hour or so."
When Michelle had finished Christian took her gym bag, slinging it over her shoulder before leading the way back to the Olympic Village. Going up to Michelle's room, Christian waited while the blonde changed clothes. Once she had finished though, they headed out in search of food. As they headed out of the lobby to the street, they caught sight of Jill with some of her friends. Instead of calling out to her though, Christian steered Michelle in the opposite direction before they were detected.
Looking up at the tall brunette in confusion, Michelle inquired, "Why are you ignoring Jill?"
"I'm not. I just don't especially want to see her right now. We've been together for months. I'd like a little break," Christian grumbled.
"Yeah like I believe that. What's going on?" she asked, taking Christian's arm.
"Nothing really. We just had a little falling out this morning. Apparently both of us grated on the other's nerves at the party last night, and it came to light this morning. It's nothing."
"I don't believe you, Christian. How could the two of you have a fight the night you win the gold? It must have been something major."
Christian shrugged. "Well, she got irritated because she thought I was going to just sleep with the first woman that came along in my high spirit. She didn't think that was appropriate. Come to find out she's the one who jumped in the sack with her ex no less."
Furrowing her brown, Michelle said, "Let me see if I have this right. She got mad at you, because she thought you were going to go bed hopping, and you're upset that she slept with Brandon."
"No, I'm not mad she had sex with Brandon. By all means she has the right to do what she wants. I'm angry that she would hold it against me and then do it herself, which by the way, I didn't. After the party Lesley and I just watched a movie, and then she left."
"Sounds like she has feelings for you if she got mad at the prospect of you having sex with another woman. Are you sure you're not mad that she slept with Brandon? Do you have feelings for her as well?"
"Michelle, you know I don't get emotionally involved."
She shrugged. "I guess that is true a lot of the time, but you did so with me. I know it, and I did with you as well. I think it was a first for both of us," she said as if lost in times passed.
"Yes, well that was then. You've taught me that it is fruitless to have romantic notions toward straight women," the hockey player stated almost resentfully.
Michelle took a second before saying, "I'm not straight, Christian. I've just been scared all these years. It would bring disgrace on my family and me. I know you don't understand that, but I'm bound by a different family structure. I'm destined to spend my life alone. You were the best thing that ever happened to me, and that's when I knew if I wasn't strong enough to face the fear with you, I just wasn't meant to ever face it."
"I think someday you will, Michelle. Someday there will be a woman that will make you realize life is not worth living without her. You'll see. There was a time when I wished it was me, but it just wasn't meant to be. That doesn't mean we can't try to be friends again," Christian offered, hoping that in some way it would make her feel better.
Michelle smiled and took Christian's hand. "I'd like that. I never meant to hurt you, and I still care about you. A friendship would mean a lot to me."
Christian and Jill ignored each other fairly well for the next few days, but knowing they had to perform again in a skating exhibition, Lesley made them practice toward the middle of the second week of the Games for their Friday night routine. Even though the executed with perfection, it lacked the usual passion that they shared, so on Friday night before they went on, Lesley talked to both of them separately. When it was Christian's turn, she took the older woman by the arms and stared deeply into her eyes.
"Listen, Christian. This is the last time Jill will ever skate on this level. I know the two of you are having some differences right now, but can you put that aside for the night? I need you to rise above this evening. You are the champions, and the fans expect a lot from the two of you. Will you please let her have her last moment? I know you have the maturity to do this for me and her. Please assure me that you will not let your dispute ruin the last time either of you takes this ice. Give me what you gave the world last week. Show them your emotions. Jill has agreed to do this for sake of the Games. Will you?"
Christian nodded. "Of course. I understand what you're saying. You have my word. Jill and I will be on tonight, but when this is over, it's back to the way it was," she mumbled.
"Well, maybe not. Don't think I haven't noticed all the time I've seen you spending with Michelle. Last night when she won her gold, don't think I didn't noticed the way she jumped into your arms. The camera caught it too. They played it on the news. It's breaking Jill's heart to think of you reconciling with Michelle after all that's happened."
"Well, I'm not the one who screwed my ex the night we won the competition. She has no right to judge me."
"She didn't sleep with Brandon. I asked."
"You did? Then what was he doing there?"
"She says they were supposed to go to breakfast together, because she had been too upset over seeing us together the night before to talk to him as he wanted, but she had overslept. He knocked on the door and woke her. She had to grab a quick shower, because she had the interview. He was just waiting on her. Apparently she confessed her feelings for you to him, because he asked for a second chance the night before."
"That little shit. He intentionally tried to make me think they slept together to get to me. She told you all this?" Christian asked curiously.
Lesley nodded. "Yes, even the part about having feelings for you, Christian. She is in love with you. She probably won't tell you, but she told me. She's been upset about what's been going on with you and Michelle."
"But nothing is going on. We just decided to be friends again, nothing more."
Lesley shrugged. "That's what I told her, but she doesn't believe me. This won't be an easy road for you two, but I think if you decide to undertake it, it'll be worth it. However, before any of that can take place, you have a routine to do. Promise me to be at your best?"
Christian gave a smile. "Of course. How could I not be with the woman I love in my arms? You'll see us going out with a bang. I promise you."
"Good. That's what I wanted to hear."
Since it was only an exhibition that night, all the skaters involved hovered around the rink watching the performances. Brandon skated with his partner first as Jill and Christian just stood there conversing with other skaters. Michelle stood close by them, wishing them both luck but spending most of her time talking with other people. The two women hardly spoke to one another, but it was clear that their moods were genuinely improved.
When it was their turn to take the ice, Christian looked down at Jill and smiled, extending her hand to the younger woman. Jill took it and allowed Christian to escort her to the middle of the rink. The crowd was screaming for them, so before they began, Christian gestured to her counterpart before clapping for her in an attempt to give her the attention she felt Jill deserved. Jill responded accordingly taking more bows in front of the audience before giving one to Christian alone. Taking their places, Christian simply smiled at Jill, knowing that her usual verbal guidance at that point would be useless. The moment spoke for itself, so she conceded to its own magnitude.
The routine they did was special to them both, showing off skills that they rarely got a chance to exhibit due to their dangerous edge, but overall the program was uncomplicated, settling for only sure jumps instead of tricky combinations. In order to excite the crowd, they played off of each other, obviously having a friendly banter on the ice. However, the moment seemed to pass too quickly, and before either of them realized it, their time had come to a close. Standing there center stage facing each other, tears began in their eyes as they moved to hug. Their professional journey had come to a close. The embrace seemed an eternity, and reluctantly they broke away to receive the homage the audience was placing on them. Once they had done their final bow, Christian put her arms around Jill's shoulders, pulling the auburn head onto her shoulder as she skated the two of them off the ice, in the most intimate display they had ever shared with the public.
Early Monday morning Christian found herself back at her home rink. Having been ignoring her duties as the facility manager and part owner, she felt she needed to head straight to work on the things she had let slip the past few months. Even though her father had filled in while she was away, she didn't feel right about putting too much pressure on him now that he had retired from the family business and passed it to her. However, before she went to her office, she stood rinkside for several minutes reminiscing of all the times she had seen Jill practicing and of all the hours the two of them had shared together in a common goal to make history. Everything seemed too still and silent for her comfort. Now that Jill had officially retired, there was no one there doing a morning practice. As much as she rejoiced in Jill's career and supported her decision to leave while she was on top, the older woman knew from a business standpoint, it was going to hurt the facility if she didn't fill that vacancy. Sighing with mixed emotions, she made her way back to her office to bury herself in paperwork.
Later that afternoon she was busy setting up for her team's hockey practice and just idly skating the ice with the puck and stick when she noticed Jill walking up toward the ice, bag in hand. Skating over to her, Christian smiled demurely, knowing that it was a bittersweet moment. "Hey," she stated softly.
"I didn't expect to see you today, but I'm glad I did."
Jill nodded. "I was just cleaning out my locker and wanted to take a look at where I had spent the last ten years of my life."
Christian looked out over the white expanse in thought. "A lot has happened for you here, and you've always added something to this place. It won't be the same to come here and not see you first thing in the mornings."
"Yeah, that will be strange," Jill stated absently.
Giving Jill an irresistible grin, Christian asked, "You want to take one last spin with me before my hockey team comes in for practice?"
Jill smiled at the idea. "Sure. Just let me put on my skates."
Christian waited for Jill to join her on the ice. Taking her by both hands, she swung her around lightly. They began moving to the music in their minds that they had heard numerous times before, doing a routine that would've rivaled any thing they had ever performed. Lifting the smaller woman above her head into the air, Christian spun slowly as she watched the glow of Jill's face from feeling the freedom of flight. Bringing her back to earth, the taller woman stood her skating partner on her feet but didn't let go as their eyes remained in an intense lock. Not even realizing her own actions, Christian's body overrode her mind, sealing Jill's lips in a gentle but deep kiss. They both moaned at the contact, bringing each other closer as they explored the moment. Christian was faintly aware that they were still gliding along the ice by sheer force, but they finally came to a halt on their own accord, still locked in kiss.
It was only when they heard the young male voices of some of Christian's hockey team loudly commenting on how gross it was to see her kissing a girl that they broke apart. Moving back a step, Christian just stared at the woman who held her heart, who looked like she was ready to dash. Before the brunette could even say anything, Jill took off, skating away from her and then heading back toward the locker room.
Christian glared at her seven and eight-year-old players. "Get started on warm ups, and I don't want to hear another word out of you about what you just saw." She wanted to go after the petite woman, but knowing the conversation they needed to have would take longer than she had time, she decided to stay where she was and supervise the children that were under her care for the next two hours.
By the time Christian was able to leave that night, it was after nine. Wondering if Jill would be receptive to talking if she were to go to her apartment, she picked up a card for her and went to see if she could patch the rift between them. When tall woman knocked on the door, she thought she heard Jill come to it, but there was a prolonged wait. She finally gave up and turned to go after several minutes, but the creak of a door turned her attention back to the apartment.
She saw the woman she loved peeking tentatively out the door. Taking cautious steps, Christian came back to her. "Hi. I'm sorry it's so late. Am I disturbing you?" Jill shook her head slowly. Christian took in her friend's swollen tired eyes but resisted the urge to touch her. "Here. This is for you," she mentioned, reaching the card out for her to take. Jill took it. "May I come in?"
"Sure," Jill mumbled, opening the door all the way. Christian crossed the threshold and immediately went to sit on the couch to put space between them in case Jill didn't want her close. "Do you want a drink or something?"
"No thanks. I'm okay," she answered even though it was apparent that she was not all right.
Holding up the card, Jill inquired, "Do you want me to read this in front of you?"
"No, you don't have to do that. I just wanted to talk for a moment before I left you alone if that's okay with you," hesitantly she stated. Seeing no real objections from Jill, she took a deep breath. "It might help if you sit. I'm nervous enough as it is without you hovering over me." Jill acquiesced taking a seat on the far side of the couch. Christian looked at her own hands for a moment, wringing them uneasily. "Well, I guess the first thing I should say is that I'm sorry for the way I behaved this morning."
"Oh," Jill whispered in obvious disappointment as her head dropped forward.
Christian reached for her hand, taking it in her own and softly caressing it. "Listen to me, Jill. I want to make it clear to you that even though I'm sorry for the way I kissed you, I'm not sorry for doing it. I'm merely apologetic for being so presumptuous as to think you might've wanted me to kiss you without even asking." Jill looked up at her in surprise but still kept quiet. Taking that cue to continue, Christian said, "Jill, we've known each other for a lot of years. When you first came to my family's facility, you were just a teenager, and I was only in my early twenties, but even then I noticed what I beautiful woman you were. We've been friends since almost the beginning and seen each other through many relationships. During that time two things never occurred to me. The first of those was that we would ever work together, and the second is that I never considered that my feelings of friendship for you might develop into something else. Over the last six months, we've spent so much time together. I think it all started with our first competition. We clicked on the ice, and something inside me began to see you in a different light. No more where you just this pretty woman that I had to regard as a good friend. You suddenly became much more. When I became your skating partner and got to hold you in my arms and when you learned to trust me completely with your life, my feelings began to change. I tried to deny it to myself and Lesley, but she saw it in me from the beginning. Being your skating partner began meaning much more to me than something professional. I began to show my affections for you whenever we took the ice. It was my way of trying to deal with my feelings. Ironically Lesley thinks that is why we won, the emotions we showed during performances. Anyway, going into the Games was difficult for me. I had to face Michelle and Brandon, feeling what I felt for you. It was a strange situation for me. The night you kissed me in the hotel lobby, I almost lost it, Jill. I wanted so much for that to be real. On the night we won gold, the only thing I really wanted was to be alone with you and explain to you how I felt, but then you acted so cold toward me, commenting on how Lesley and I could go have sex and then walking off with Brandon. I was upset that night, but the next morning, I went to your room, and Brandon answered the door. When he said the two of you had spent the night together, I lost it. I ran into Michelle later that day, and we patched things up a bit. We just spent time together, because I couldn't think of you being with Brandon again. I have to admit it, Jill. My actions this morning surprised me probably as much as they did you, but I can't be sorry for doing what I've been denying myself for so long. However, I do want you to know that I am sorry if I in any way made you uncomfortable. I would never want to hurt our friendship. I just felt like you should know that I feel more for you than friendship now, but I'm not sure how you feel toward me. This relationship means a lot to me, so I don't want to do anything to put it in jeopardy. However, I just couldn't go on without saying anything, especially after today."
Jill gave a nod and then was silent. Christian could tell she was processing the long confession and gave her time to take it all in. "Well, I'm not even sure where to begin," she confessed. "I guess I should just tell you that Brandon and I never slept together at the Games. He wanted to reconcile, but I told him that was impossible, because I had feelings for you. I do have them for you, Christian. It goes without saying that this is a first for me. I've never felt this way for a woman. I thought I was ready to take the plunge, but today something scared me. Kissing you was like nothing I've ever felt, even with Brandon. When we kissed at the Olympics, I thought I was feeling things so strongly, because it was in front of Brandon, and I thought you were just acting. I wasn't acting, though. I wanted to kiss you, Christian, but I wasn't prepared for what I felt when I did. I don't even think I can put into words what I felt at the moment, and this morning I felt it again." Jill paused and looked into her lap. "But when those kids came in and started making comments, I couldn't take it. I felt embarrassed by those feelings."
"Is it because of what they said about us kissing being gross?" Christian asked. Jill gave a noncommittal shrug. "Jill, they're children, only seven and eight. It wouldn't have matter who you were. They would've thought me kissing Brandon was gross. It's not that we're both women. It's just that they are at that age where any of that kind of stuff is nasty to them, but they are secretly fascinated at the same time. Please don't let a group of kids influence the way you feel."
Jill looked into Christian's eyes. "It just got me thinking, Christian. I care about you as more than a friend, but I'm not sure of any way to express that other than on the ice. The last thing I want to do is turn into another Michelle in your life. I don't want to get involved with you and come to realize that I can't go all the way, and by that I don't mean sex. I mean being seen as your girlfriend. You deserve a woman who will publicly stand by you. I just don't think it's fair of me to ask you to step back from the edge for my sake. I care about you so deeply just as you are, and I wouldn't want to change that. I would never want to hurt you, Christian. It would pain me greatly if I ever did that."
Christian nodded. "Jill, if you could have anything you wanted regarding our relationship, what would it be? How would you want our relationship to be?"
"I would want to date and explore these wonderful new feelings I have, but I'd want to do it discreetly. I wouldn't necessarily want anyone to know we were dating until we were both comfortable with that. I'd want this to be like my other past relationships where people don't even know we're together unless they're extremely close friends until the moment is right, but the circumstances are different."
"They don't have to be, Jill. I understand your need for discretion."
"But it's not fair to you, Christian. You deserve more."
Curving an arm around the younger woman, Christian stated, "Why don't you let me decide what I think is fair and what I deserve?"
"I'm scared of failing you, Christian, not necessarily as a girlfriend but as a friend. No matter what I don't think I could handle it if we weren't friends any more. I don't want to be Michelle."
"You aren't, nor will you ever be. You don't have one selfish bone in your body. Michelle was all about her. You are already so far ahead of the game. I believe that you are concerned about me, and I'm flattered beyond belief that you are trying almost to a fault to put my needs above your own. If you want to try to have a relationship with me, I would be honored, no strings attached. If things don't work out, we go back to being friends. I want you to be happy, Jill, and I believe I can give you that. I want you to do what is most comfortable for you and nothing more. We have to talk about this all the way. It won't be easy, but if you want to try so do I. I'm leaving it up to you, because this is a bigger issue for you than me. If you need time to think about it, just let me know."
Jill shook her head. "I don't need to think about it, Christian. If you're sure you want to take a chance on me, I want to take the chance, too."
Christian smiled sexily at her new girlfriend. "Nothing would please me more than to kiss you right now, Jill."
Jill returned the smile as she slipped her arms around Christian's neck, pulling her in for a soft kiss. It was gentle and reassuring, giving them both comfort in the knowledge that it was the beginning of something wonderful.