ACT 1

Doris Wolfe was late.  She knew it even before she glanced down at her watch as she slipped silently, and hopefully stealthily, into her office and ran smack-dab into her one o’clock appointment.  Her very impatient, very irritated one o’clock appointment.  Her very impatient, very irritated, very gay, one o’clock appointment.  Wincing, she chastised herself; she had no way of knowing if the tall, thin man sitting in her office tapping his obviously pricey leather ankle-boots was gay.  There were plenty of men who liked tan suede heeled footwear… and Burberry cardigan sweater vests with matching bags… and pink button-down shirts tucked half-in, half-out of their designer jeans… Nope, this man could definitely be straight.  More than anyone, she should’ve known better than to judge a book by its cover; sometimes the inside was not at all what was pictured on the front.

“Mayor Wolfe?” The man - Andre Graham, if she remembered correctly - spoke as his head whipped around, a shrewd look in his powder-blue eyes, which peeked over pink-frosted Chanel glasses.  “Oh honey, I see we have a lot of work to do!” 

And sometimes the cover was an isomorphic display of the contents of the pages.  Looking down at herself, Doris frowned.  She liked this outfit, especially the blazer; it was her favorite.  “No need to be upset, darling.  My job is to turn frowns upside down.  Yours and, more importantly, your public’s.”

“Mr. Graham...” she began, shaking off the initial shock of his bluntness and stepping forward.  He had come highly recommended, after all.  She was quickly cut off. 

“Andre, please, no need to be formal.  We are going to get real close over the next few weeks.”

“You don’t say?” she deadpanned, feeling a headache worming its way between her eyes.  It was definitely going to be a long day.

“Oh yes, I certainly do.  As of right now, I am your frontal lobe; any decisions that affect your public image have to come through me first.” 

Blue eyes met blue in a battle of wills and, after a full minute, Doris quirked an eyebrow. 

“They tell me you’re good at what you do, Mr. Graham,” she said, doubtfully.

“Andre, and I’m the best.  I’m the Johnnie Cochran of PR,” he replied, smirking arrogantly.  Still seated, he offered her his hand.

 “You’d better be,” she muttered, accepting it and shaking firmly.  “Well then, let’s get to work.”

 *~*~*~*

 

“Hmmm… what about this one?” Natalia asked, holding a dark frock up against her body.  Olivia winced but said nothing.   She wanted desperately to scream that the sorry excuse for a dress wouldn’t do her lover’s body justice, but knew that in the end, it really didn’t matter.  She would find Natalia beautiful no matter what she wore for Halloween, even if it was a piece of cloth that made a potato sack look like designer fashion. 

“No, huh?”

 “You’ll be beautiful no matter what you wear,” Olivia responded honestly, reaching an arm out as she moved forward, gently taking the sad excuse for a costume away from her lover and tossing it aside before moving in close.  Looking around with exaggerated care to make sure they were alone, she leaned down and was rewarded with a kiss. 

“Olivia!” Natalia giggled, snuggling into the embrace and gazing up at her lover through dark lashes.  “I don’t want to be beautiful despite my outfit!  I… I want to look nice…” she said, suddenly turning shy and hiding her face against her lover’s neck.  “Well, as nice as possible considering I’m the size of a house.”

“Ha!  You are not the size of a house, sweetheart.  A small studio apartment, maybe, but a whole house? Nah-oof!”

“Hey, watch it lady!” Natalia growled playfully, poking the taller woman in the ribs.  Pulling back, she shook her head, a grin ruining her façade of fake anger.  “Keep that up and you sleep on the porch tonight.”

 “Of course, what I meant to say was that you’ve never looked thinner.” Olivia teased, arms coming around to hold her partner close.  “You always look good.”  Taking a deep, noisy of the smaller woman’s hair, Olivia let out an exaggerated moan.  “Smell good too.  Lavender and vanilla, my favorite.”

“Uh huh; nice recovery,” the Latina muttered, smiling against the older woman’s shoulder. 

“Maybe we should see how Emma and Frank are doing?” Natalia suggested reluctantly after a few moments.  She didn’t want to move, loathe to give up the feeling of warmth and completeness she found in Olivia’s arms, but knew that if they didn’t they would end up without costumes.

 “Sure,” Olivia agreed easily, eager to get her lover away from the hideous outfits she had been contemplating.  If worst came to worst, she would fashion the younger woman a toga out of the bed sheets… The thought stopped Olivia short, and she had to force herself to breath normally as her girlfriend led her out of the shop.  Natalia… in a toga… and nothing else…  Shaking her head, the older woman brought herself back to reality. 

 “Right, let’s go find them before Em cons him into buying her a puppy…”

They found Frank and Emma three shops over in the toy store, the back of which had been converted into a children’s costume emporium.  Frank sat rather awkwardly in a tiny chair outside the dressing stalls, a small pile of colorful clothes on his lap.  He looked vaguely frazzled, hair unkempt as if he had been running his hands through it in frustration.  Despite, or maybe because, of any frustration at having him around constantly, Olivia couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight.  At the sound the man jerked around in his seat, face immediately filling with gratitude.  “Oh thank God,” he all but whimpered, standing and clutching the clothes in a white knuckled grip that spoke of exhausted desperation.  “She is definitely a Spencer,” he said by way of explanation to the question reflected in two sets of amused eyes.

Before either woman could comment, a curtain pulled back revealing the interior of one of the dressing stalls, and out stepped their daughter, smiling widely.  “Whadda you think?”

 “Oh, honey!  You are too precious for words,” Natalia breathed, moving forward and kneeling in front of the girl as best she could.  Emma beamed, supremely proud of herself for picking out her own costume.  She was dressed, rather appropriately both her mothers thought, as an angel in a white dress with gold trim, with a pair of white-feathered wings on her back, and a halo attached to a gold-glitter head band.  “My little Angel!”

 “You like it?” the girl asked, obviously fishing for compliments.  Olivia snorted, moving forward and softly tugging on her daughter’s ponytail.

 “Yeah, Jellybean, we like it.  Good choice,” she indulged, reaching down and offering her lover a hand up. 

Smiling up at her and accepting her hand, Natalia rose slowly to her feet, groaning as her back twinged.  Frowning with concern, Olivia squeezed the shorter woman’s hand.  “You okay?”

 “Yeah, just sore.  I can’t wait for her to come, so I can see my feet again!”

 “Is there anything I can do?” Frank asked, moving forward, stopping himself from reaching out for his ex-fiancée after a pointed look from Olivia.

 “I’m fine,” Natalia assured, oblivious to the exchange.  “She’ll be here soon enough, and this pain’ll be a distant memory…”

“Can we get ice cream?” Emma interrupted, batting her eyes winningly at her parents. 

 Frank chuckled, discarding the remaining costumes on the chair.

 “That’s my cue to get out of here.  You ladies have a good day, and, Happy Halloween,” he said, backing away slowly, acting almost as if he were afraid a sudden move might incite the women into asking him to stay.  It seemed to Olivia, however, that he was moving slow enough so that he could return at a moment’s notice should anyone suggest he join them for the afternoon. 

 “Happy Halloween!” Natalia and Emma said together, giggling.

 “Bye-bye Frankie,” Olivia called, waving, before turning back to her family.  She thought she heard the man sigh, but ignored it; she wouldn’t raise a fuss about him being around, but she wouldn’t invite him either. “And no, we can’t get ice cream.” 

 “But, it was just my birthday…” Emma tried again, using her best pout.

 “And that’s why you had the biggest birthday party that any nine year old has ever had,” Olivia countered, rolling her eyes.  “Besides, you’ll have so many sweets tonight you won’t know what to do with them.  That should be enough.”

 “Ooooookay…” the girl sighed, dragging her feet as they made their way to the counter.

 “Jeez; where does she get this from?” her mother grumbled, shaking her head.

 “I believe that would be you,” Natalia replied playfully, linking their arms together.  Emma turned back and looked at her non-existent watch impatiently.  “Yup, definitely you.”

*~*~*~*

 

Doris Wolfe felt the other woman’s stare like an accusation, burning into her skin through the flimsy protection of her clothing.  “Look, Jamanda… it’s nothing personal, all right?” the older woman tried, raising her hands in a placating manner and approaching her agitated lover as if she were a cornered animal.  Jamanda only glared, and for a moment Doris feared for the objects on her coffee table; she was beginning to reevaluate the wisdom of having this particular discussion in her home, near her fragile, mostly beloved collection of possessions. 

“I just don’t think–”

 “You don’t think, Doris, or… or that man?” the younger woman interrupted pointedly, even as she hugged her middle defensively.  “Because it seems like not that long ago you were introducing me to your daughter, and-and taking me to weddings as your date.  So, please, explain to me how this is your idea?”

 “Look,” the Mayor tried again, blowing out a frustrated breath.  “I’m not breaking up with you - Jesus that sounds so juvenile.”

 “Juvenile?  Now I’m being immature?”

 “No, damn it, that’s not what I meant!  Look, I’m not ending things between us, okay?  I just, I think we need to… slow down a bit.”

 “How much more slow can we get?  Christ, it took us this long to move forward from secret meetings in hotel rooms and quickies in my car.”  The older woman had the good grace to blush at that, coughing to cover her embarrassment.  “We finally get past all your fear, and… what, we have to go back to sneaking around?  Because some man thinks I’m bad for your image?” Jamanda spat, flames practically shooting from her eyes as she paced jerkily along the length of the room.

 “Not sneaking around, sweetie, just…” The blue-eyed woman tried again, her voice a little hoarse with the desperation of wanting her lover to understand.  “Andre says I need to focus on making myself more approachable, presenting myself as ‘Doris Wolfe, woman of the people.’  He thinks pushing my sexuality into the public sphere will alienate large portions of the more conservative voting demographic, at least, for now.” 

Jamanda made a disgusted sound at the back of her throat and rolled her eyes, but said nothing.  Doris took this as a good sign and moved forward to gently grasp her lover’s upper arms, pulling their bodies together so she could embrace her loosely.  After a few moments of resisting, the bartender relaxed into her, sighing. 

 “It won’t be forever, all right?” Doris began again softly.  “He says that after a few months, maybe six, I can start introducing-” She was quickly interrupted.

 “Six months!” the younger woman exclaimed, breaking free and stepping back.  “You can’t be serious!”  Dark eyes flashed, and the Mayor felt her own temper flaring.

 “I don’t think a little patience is too much to ask for here.”

 “There’s a difference between patience and denial, Doris.”

 “I’m not denying anything, Jamanda,” the politician ground out through clenched teeth. 

 “He tells me this is the right move for me to make professionally, and I don’t see the harm.  He’s the best at what he does.”

They stared at each other silently, for long moments, before Jamanda finally spoke.  When she did, her voice was soft and low, pleading.  “Doris, I… I can’t go back to being a dirty little secret…”

 “You’re not!  It’s not about you, I promise.  I just-I need to start thinking about the election now, start assuring the vote.”

 “Doris,” Jamanda tried again.  She moved forward, taking the other woman’s hands in her own, bringing them to her face and kissing the knuckles.  “What we have, it could be something… something real, meaningful…”

 “I think so too!  That’s why, after a few months, we can start slow, attend events together, be seen in public…” 

 The younger woman sighed, eyes filling with tears.  “I can’t take hiding who I am, who we are together anymore.  We won’t survive the six months, baby.  I’ll get restless, stifled, and you’ll get resentful, and it’ll end… so badly,” she murmured, whispering the last words.   It sounded almost as if she had done this all before.

 “But, I have to think about my career,” Doris insisted, seeing their relationship curling and blackening, but not wanting to believe this was it.

Jamanda let go of her hands and moved back, shaking her head sadly.  “I won’t pretend not to know you when I see you in public, if we’re together.  Not when I want you to hold me, not when I want to kiss you.”

 “Are you forcing me to choose, you or my job?”  The Mayor asked, voice suddenly bland and steady, almost pleasant; it was like the calm before the storm.  Jamanda laughed, though the sound was hollow.

 “No, you’ve already made the choice.  I’m just making you see that.”  She walked forward, into Doris’s personal space.  Sliding a hand up, she cupped Doris’ cheek, urging her closer, until they were breathing the same air.  “Remember, this was your choice,” she whispered, leaning forward and kissing her lover slowly, sweetly.  Pulling back, she swallowed hard, fighting against the tears.  “Goodbye.”

And before Doris could respond, she was gone.

 *~*~*~*

 

In the end, after another half hour of shopping without luck, they had unanimously had decided to call it quits and go home, still having a few important chores to get done before the evening came.  Knowing her lover would be disappointed about not dressing up, Olivia had promised her that next year they would go shopping early. Natalia had just smiled enigmatically and said she would work with what she had.  When they had returned home, the smaller woman had disappeared into the bedroom stealthily, chasing her lover away and down the stairs when she tried to come in.  “Time to make pumpkin cookies!” she had announced, distracting both her girls successfully.

“How long is this gonna take?” Emma asked impatiently, bouncing in place at the end of the counter.  She had insisted on wearing her Halloween costume all day, and thus had been banished to the opposite side of the room when the orange food coloring had been introduced to the project.  To make up for that, she had been promised a cookie from the first batch.

 “Not too much longer, sweetie,” Natalia replied for what must have been the hundredth time in the last five minutes, her patience seemingly infinite.  Olivia observed the scene, hidden from view in the doorway, amused by her daughter’s eagerness and enjoying the normalcy of the moment the rest of her family was sharing.  Her family; even the thought of it made her feel warm and relaxed.

 “This is taking forever!” Emma groaned, shuffling from foot to foot, the movements causing the ivory-white feathers on her back to rustle.

The sound of Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” pulled Olivia back to reality, and she smirked like she did every time the ring-tone played.  Doris would probably roll her eyes and grumble if she knew, and the thought of her friend’s reaction always made her chuckle.  Moving into the living room, she retrieved her phone from the coffee table and pressed the green button.  “What can I do for you, Madam Mayor?”

 “Olivia…” came the soft, hesitant voice, and immediately the hotelier was serious, a frown creasing her forehead.

 “Doris?  Are you all right?”

 “I… I’m fine,” was the response, but the thickness of the other woman’s voice made it obvious she had been crying, and Olivia felt her heart clench.

 “What’s wrong?”

 “I… she… Jamanda… she left me, Olivia…” 

 Olivia’s breath caught in her throat.  “Crap…”

 “Yeah… Do you…can I talk to you?”

 “Uh… yeah, sure; just gimme a sec.”

Walking back into the kitchen, Olivia covered the phone with one hand and motioned to Natalia with her head.  The smaller woman wiped her hands on a dish towel and made her way over.  “Doris just got dumped,” she whispered without preamble.

 “Oh no!” the dark-haired woman gasped, hand flying up to cover her mouth.

 “Yeah, I’m going to take this upstairs.  Send Em if you need me; I don’t want you climbing if you don’t have to, okay?”  Natalia just rolled her eyes but nodded, used to her lover’s over-protectiveness by now.

 “Ask her if she wants to come trick-or-treating.” 

 Olivia snorted.  “I doubt getting kicked to the curb is going to make her eager to parade around town and beg for candy.”

 “Olivia.” Natalia’s voice was stern.  “Just ask.” 

Sighing, the taller woman nodded, leaning forward for a kiss, which she was easily given.  She wouldn’t consciously admit it to herself, but deep down she needed the reassurance of her lover’s touch.  The sound of her friend’s heart-broken voice brought her back to where she had been not too long ago, lost and alone. She needed a reminder that Natalia was there, wasn’t an illusion.

 “Yes dear,” she drawled as they broke apart, spinning away and power-walking to avoid the dish towel snapped at her.  She took the stairs two at a time, mind racing, trying to think of what to say.

“Okay, I’m here.  Tell me what happened.”  Olivia spoke into the phone, walking into the master bedroom, but stopping short as she spied something very out of place.  A large white bag sat on her side of the bed with a card on top of it, her name written out in Natalia’s unmistakable script.  Approaching the bed, she opened the bag, unable to help the smirk when she peeked inside and saw the contents.  Pushing the bag aside, she cradled the phone between her shoulder and ear and grabbed the card, tearing the envelope open.  It read simply, ‘Couldn’t resist, hope you like it. Love, N.’

“This is partially your fault, you know,” Doris began, dragging Olivia back to reality, her tone not a bit accusatory, instead just resigned.  “Damn Evil Image Consultant from hell…”

By the time the Mayor finished her story, Olivia was wincing with guilt, biting her lip to keep from apologizing for the millionth time.  If she had thought for a second her friend couldn’t handle the opinionated PR specialist, she wouldn’t have suggested him to her.  It was a new friendship, and she sometimes forgot that, despite her sarcasm, bluster and larger-than-life persona, Doris Wolfe was sensitive and easily wounded.  She personally would have just told the man to find a way to integrate her sexuality into her new image, insisting that the people would appreciate honesty over sugar-coating. 

But she was never one to hide who she was while, conversely, Doris’s public persona was based entirely on what she thought others wanted her to be.  They would have to work on that; she would have to help the other woman be unapologetic of her true self.  If anyone had told her six months ago that she would be helping Doris Wolfe come out of the closet, she would have laughed in their face.  Still, the other woman had been there for her when she’d needed her, supporting her and telling her it would be all right.  Olivia owed it to her to be there in return.

“Doris, I…”

 “Please don’t apologize again, Olivia, it’s getting tiresome.” The Mayor sighed, sounding defeated.

 “No, I wasn’t going to.  I mean, I am sorry, but… Listen, I’ll talk to Andre, okay? You just have to know how to talk to him.  He obviously misunderstood what his place is, so we’ll just have to make sure to remind him who’s paying who.”  The businesswoman practically growled, and the other woman chuckled thickly. 

 “We’ll get him straightened out… so to speak.”

“You… do you think I was wrong?  Would you have done it differently?” Doris asked suddenly, her voice small and unsure. 

Olivia froze for a moment, before forcing herself to relax and answer honestly.  “Look, Doris, what I would’ve done doesn’t really matter.  What does matter is that you worked so damn hard to get where you are; you put everything you had into it.  If she can’t understand how much a part of you being Mayor is, how important it is, then she didn’t really know you.  And you deserve to be with someone who can support you even if they don’t necessarily agree with you.”

 “Yeah, I… I suppose…you’re right…”

 “Pfft, that’s right I’m right!  I’m Olivia Freakin’ Spencer; I’m always right!”

 “Except when you’re not.”

 “Which isn’t the case, at least not here.”

Doris was silent for long moments, but the other woman could hear her breathing over the phone.  Finally the politician sighed again, a slow, even release of air. 

 “Okay,” she said, and Olivia could almost see her nodding, pulling herself together.  “Olivia… thank you.  I didn’t mean to unload on you like that.”

 “No problem, that’s what friends are for.  Or, so I’m told,” the green-eyed woman replied, joking to try and chase away the lump of emotion in her throat.

 “Ha, right!  I think I read that in a book somewhere.” Doris acknowledged the shift in mood, a smile evident in her voice.  “Thanks.”

 “You’re welcome.”

In the ensuing silence Olivia’s mind wandered back to the bag in front of her, which she grabbed after a few moments and upended onto the bed so that she could thoroughly inspect the contents.

 “Well then, I think it time for me to shut up…” Doris said reluctantly, snapping the businesswoman’s attention back to their conversation again.  “So, I’ll… talk to you later, I guess.”

 “Oh, wait!  Natalia wanted me to ask if you want to come trick-or-treating with us tonight.”

 “Oh, Olivia, I don’t know…”

 “Free candy and a chance to be someone you’re not for a night… come on, who doesn’t love Halloween?  Plus, Natalia and Emma are baking up a few batches of her famous pumpkin cookies…” she enticed, fingers toying with her loot absently.

 “Oh. all right.”

 “Well that was easier than I thought it would be.”

 “It was the promise of your lady friend’s cookies that did it,” Doris quipped, and Olivia snorted.

“So, what are you gonna be?” the hotelier asked after a moment, truly curious.  Perhaps, if the outfit was sexy enough and a certain someone just happened to be out and about, that someone would be reminded of what she was missing…

 “Wouldn’t you like to know?  You’ll see when I get there,” the Mayor replied, chuckling.

 “Awww, come ooooon!  Gimme a hint?”

 “Don’t whine, Olivia, it’s unbecoming.”

 “Sigh, fine, don’t tell me.  You, here, at six.  Don’t be late.”

 “Okay, Tarzan, see you then.”

 “That would make you the chimp,” Olivia teased, smiling, relieved her friend would be all right.

 “And you a man,” Doris retorted.  “See you in a bit, Spencer.”

 “See you soon, Wolfe.”

When Olivia reentered the kitchen, she found an extra person sitting patiently at the table.  Taking one look at the newest arrival, Olivia burst into loud, uncontrollable laughter, so overcome that she had to hold on to the edge of the counter to keep upright. 

 “What?” Clarissa Marler asked, frowning in confusion.  Chuckling, Natalia rolled her eyes.

 “Nothing, honey, Olivia’s just rude,” she chided, swatting her lover as she walked by with cellophane wrap for the cookies.

 “What… oh man, who are you supposed to be?” Olivia giggled, trying to restrain herself. 

Clarissa sniffed, clearly annoyed.  Standing, the girl picked up her briefcase and did a little spin, showing off her black pencil skirt and blaringly loud black, red, and white blazer.  “You can’t tell?” she asked, a little disappointed. 

 Olivia took a deep breath and wiped her eyes.  “Oh, no, I think I got it.  But you can tell me if you like.”

 “I’m Mayor Wolfe!” the girl exclaimed, proud of herself.  “My mommy said I could be Mayor some day if I wanted, but I didn’t want to wait.”

 “That is both the most adorable and most shrewd thing I have ever heard,” Olivia commented, eyes narrowing in thought for a moment.  “Jellybean, I think mini-Wolfe here is going to give you a run for your money when you rule the world.”

 “We’re gonna to do it together,” the girl replied easily, smiling cheekily at her mother, by now used to the odd comments about her conquering the globe.

 “Of course, why didn’t I think of that?” Olivia asked, rolling her eyes.

Inching her way to the cooling rack, the businesswoman reached forward, mouth watering at the scents teasing her nose.  Surely, her lover wouldn’t notice if one cookie went missing. 

 “Don’t even think about it,” Natalia said evenly, her back turned to the still-hot confections and her guilty-looking partner.  “Those are for the hosts!”

 “Only you would take gifts to give to people when you’re the one trick or treating!” Olivia muttered, annoyed but backing off.  “All right then, who wants to help decorate candy buckets?”

 “Oh, oh, me!” the two girls exclaimed, jumping up and down excitedly.

 “Excellent.  To the living room!” Olivia shouted, turning and jogging back through the door.

 “To the living room!” they repeated, dashing after her.

 *~*~*~*

 

Anna Li was bored.  She knew she should be listening more attentively to the gruff voice detailing instructions and information to her over the phone, but she found herself sitting behind the wheel of her car, holding back a yawn and idly wondering what she would have for lunch instead.  Part of her apathy towards the man on the other end was the fact that they had been over this before, many times, in preparation for her placement in Springfield. 

“Are you listening to me, Li?” the voice barked, and she sighed quietly, rolling her eyes and adjusting her sunglasses on her face.

 “Of course.  I could repeat back the last five minutes if you’d like,” she replied, frowning as she looked around the parking lot.  She had been not-so-patiently waiting for her contact to stop talking so that she could commence with the next part of the operation, but it looked as if she would have to, once again, reassure him that she was up to the task before her.

“Make light of my concerns if you want, Anna, but you’ll find out soon enough that small towns don’t necessarily mean small problems.  You’re going to have to play this one real smart if you’re going to succeed,” was the reply, and she nodded, mouthing the words along with him, having heard this, too, many times. 

“If you didn’t think I was qualified, I wouldn’t be here,” she reminded him flatly, wanting to get on with it.

 “Credentials and training don’t make the man,” he countered readily, tone fierce.

 “Fortunately for you, in this case, not only do I have experience, I’m no man.”  Spotting a figure approaching in the distance, she closed her eyes briefly in relief. 

 “Make sure to keep in close contact with my partner.”

 “My new boss is here; I have to go.  I’ll be in touch. Happy Halloween.”  She smirked, hanging up on him before he could reply.  She would hear about it later, but the little power-play was well worth it.  “Trick or Treat, Chief Cooper,” she murmured to herself.

Getting out of her car,  Anna stretched mightily, relaxing her posture to one of hesitant friendliness as the man reached her, a perfect combination that would undoubtedly lead him to let down his guard.  Frank Achilles Cooper Jr., new Chief of Police in Springfield.  Father: Frank “Buzz” Cooper Sr., sister: Harley Cooper-Aitoro, daughter: Marina Cooper, formerly Camalleti, and, more importantly, adopted grandson: Henry Cooper Camalleti. 

“You Anna Li?” the man asked, grabbing her hand and shaking it before she could answer.

“Uh, yeah.  Chief Cooper, right?” she asked, frowning and feigning an air of ignorance.

 “That’d be me.  Sorry I’m late; I had some business with my ex-fiancée and her family,” he replied, shrugging as if to say, Women. 

Reviewing her mental file, Anna frowned ever so slightly.  Ex-fiancée: Natalia Rivera, left him at the altar.  But who was her family?  And more importantly, why was she still involved in Chief Cooper’s daily life?  As far as the operative knew, the son was now out of the picture and there were no concrete ties to the Coopers.    She would have tell her contact that his Intel was incomplete.

Shaking her head, she focused on the task at hand, namely, gaining the trust of her new employer.  Schooling her expression to appear sympathetic and relieved, she laughed a little.  “Oh, I understand, believe me,” she assured, squeezing the hand still in hers and nodding in what she hoped looked like sympathy.  “No harm done.”  Letting go of Frank’s hand, she inclined her head.  “If you don’t find it to be too much trouble, though, I’d absolutely love a tour.”

 “Of course!  Let me just grab some papers from the office, and then I’ll take you to the best coffee in town.  I always work better over at Company anyway,” he said amicably, clapping her on the shoulder and moving forward to lead the way into the police station.  Rolling her eyes behind his back, Anna held back a sigh.  It was going to be a long day…

 *~*~*~*

 

Checking herself over one last time and using the glass of the china cabinet as a mirror to put the finishing touches on her crimson lipstick, Olivia blew an air-kiss to her reflection, grinning in satisfaction.  Skin tight, almost indecently short red dress?  Check.  Red cape and pitchfork?  Check.  Horns and matching tail?  Check.  Four inch black pumps that drove her lover crazy?  Double check. 

Clicking her heels together almost giddily, she made her way to the living room, chuckling at the sight of Emma and Clarissa sitting on the edge of the couch, watching SpongeBob as if he held the secrets to the universe.  “Em, sweetie, why don’t you go get Natalia?  Doris and your cousins should be here soon.”  Nodding, the girl got up and scurried to the bottom of the stairs.

“Natalia!  Mommy says hurry up cuz Doris and Jonathan and Sarah are gonna be here soon!” Emma shouted, tapping her little foot impatiently and casting furtive glances back at the television screen.

 “Ya know Jellybean, when I said go get Natalia I meant in person… quietly…” Olivia commented flatly, wiggling a finger in her ear to try and dispel the high pitched ringing.  Clarissa giggled from her seat on the couch before turning her attention back to the Halloween themed cartoons. 

After a few moments of nothing, Olivia realized that she was going to have to take things into her own hands.  Rolling her eyes, she moved forward and past her daughter, flicking the girl’s braid as she walked up the stairs.  “Entertain your guest, pretty girl,” she reminded, pausing for a moment as an idea struck her.  “And, if two cookies were to come up missing, I’m sure no one would notice…”  The two girls froze for all of two seconds, before bolting for the kitchen door. “One each!” she called after them, chuckling.

Climbing the stairs quietly and moving down the hall, Olivia paused in front of her old room.  The door stood shut, a fresh layer of soft yellow paint making it stand out amongst the rest of the colors in the corridor. The inside was almost complete, all that was missing now was the rocking chair she had secretly special ordered for Natalia – an early Christmas present – and the baby herself.  “Soon,” she murmured, the thought filling her with warmth.  Soon, her family would be complete.  Nodding to herself, she smiled and began walking again, to her new room, to their room.

“Natalia, sweetheart, are you close to ready?  The natives are getting restless…” Olivia called from outside the door, trying to resist the urge to look inside.  The other woman had informed her that she had actually gotten her costume the day before, when she had been at work, and wanted to surprise her.   She lost the battle, peeking into the room and frowning when she didn’t see the younger woman.

 “In here,” Natalia called back, arm appearing through the entrance of the adjoining bathroom and waving for a moment before disappearing again.  “Just putting on the finishing touches.  You can come in.”

Olivia wandered into the room and sat on their bed, sighing happily.  Their bed: she would never get tired of that thought.  “Better hurry, before Angel Emma and Doris 2.0 eat all the cookies and use the energy to mutiny.”

 “Don’t even joke about that!” Natalia cried, popping out of the bathroom and darting out of the bedroom.  “Emma Spencer, you can each have one cookie, one!”  Olivia bit her lip to keep from laughing.

 “You move fast for a pregnant lady,” she commented off handedly as her lover stepped back into the room.

 “You calling me fat?” the smaller woman growled playfully, hands on her hips.

Opening her mouth to back peddle, Olivia was struck dumb by the vision before her.  Natalia, who had apparently decided to be a witch again this year, had managed to find a long, flowing dress that somehow was both perfectly form fitting and tastefully accommodating of her rounded belly.  It hugged her stomach but flared at her hips, so that the black material seemed to shimmer and flow like liquid whenever the woman moved.  What really caught Olivia’s attention, however, was the way the dark cloth plunged dangerously low at the smaller woman’s chest, accentuating her larger bust and giving her amazing cleavage…

“Gii-uh huh, what?” the older woman mumbled, blinking slowly and shaking her head, trying to come back to reality. 

 “Hey there, my eyes are up here.”  Natalia giggled, smiling indulgently, eyes crinkling at the corners.  The expression drew attention to the subtle indigo eye shadow she had applied, which made her dark gaze smoky, almost indecent. 

 “Uh… yeah, can we just skip the trick or treating and go straight to unwrapping the candy?” Olivia suggested, wiggling her eyebrows to indicate she was joking… mostly.

 “It was either this or Catwoman, and I don’t think anyone wants to see me in a leather cat suit right now…”  Olivia’s eyes glazed over and her jaw slowly slid open.  The Latina wasn’t sure, but there might have been drool.  “Olivia?  Hey!”  Natalia snapped her fingers in her lover’s face.  “Dirty mind,” she muttered.

 “Hey, don’t say things like that and not expect my mind to buy a ticket for the gutter bus!” the taller woman defended, trying to hide her embarrassment.

The dark haired woman smiled, natural shyness causing her face to color slightly as she moved to stand in between her lover’s legs.  “Flattery will get you no where,” she chided gently, leaning down to kiss the other woman.

 “You do know that you are beyond drop dead gorgeous in that dress, right?” Olivia asked, incredulous when Natalia shook her head, unconsciously denying the sentiment.  “I mean you’re always beautiful, but, you set phasers to ‘knock-out’.”

 “Stop it,” Natalia blushed harder, obviously pleased even as she hid behind her hair.

 “Sweetie, you are absolutely stunning.”

 “You really think so?”  The seated woman let out a bark of a laugh.

 “Uh, no honey, I don’t think so, I know so!  Seriously witchy-woman, you cast a spell on me!”

Sliding into the hotelier’s lap, Natalia hummed in contentment.  Somebody’s getting an extra treat tonight, I think,” she murmured, leaning forward for another kiss.

 “Ooo, pick me, pick me,” Olivia whispered against her lips, hands wrapping around the smaller woman to hold her securely in place.  The baby chose that moment to make her presence known, kicking hard enough to poke Olivia firmly in the stomach.  Resting their foreheads together, the two women grinned, a peace settling over them.  “Yeah, yeah, love you too Sweetpea.”  They were rewarded with another strong kick.

“MOM, NATALIA! JONATHAN AND SARAH ARE HERE!” Emma shouted from the base of the stairs, shattering the stillness and startling them.

 “All work and no play make Olivia a grumpy girl,” the taller woman muttered, before sighing and smiling sheepishly.  “Why yes, she was raised in a barn.”

 “Aw, my poor baby.  I’ll make it up to you,” Natalia promised, pecking the other woman on the lips one more time before standing.  “Come on, lazy bones!  We have candy to scam.”

“And they say I’m wicked…”

“Hey Auntie O, Natalia.” Jonathan greeted with a smile as the women descended the stairs.  “Ladies, you look stunning.”  Natalia blushed but smiled back, ignoring her lover’s ‘I told you so’ as she pulled the man into a hug.

 “You’re not too bad yourself there, kiddo,” Olivia replied, nodding at him.  He cut quite the dashing figure in an obviously tailor made tux and bow tie.

 “But, Auntie O, where’s your costume?” he teased.

 “Oh, very cute, cheeky boy.  Looks like someone is gonna get more tricks than treats tonight!” she replied, poking at him with her pitchfork.

 “I was just curious…” he said innocently.

“She’s in it Jonathan!” Emma exclaimed from her position on the couch, jumping up and rushing to her mother’s side and defense.  “See, we match!  I’m an Angel, and Mommy’s a devil.  See the horns?”

 “Of course, how could I have missed it?” he said, bending down to her level and tweaking her nose.

 “I picked the outfit,” Natalia admitted, her blush and unrepentant smile at odds with each other.

 “Did you now?  I’m impressed,” Jonathan said, smirking.

A tug at his sleeve brought the man’s attention to his daughter, who was hiding behind his leg.  “What is it, baby girl?” he asked, reaching back and hoisting the child up with one arm, settling her onto his hip.  She was growing so fast; soon he wouldn’t be able to pull off that little maneuver.  She reached forward and pulled herself to his neck, whispering into his ear.  “Uh huh, why don’t you ask them?” he suggested, smiling when she shook her head and hid her face against him.

Turning back to the others, he gave them a mock serious look.  “I have been informed that I am to ask you if you like Sarah’s costume,” he reported, chuckling.

 “Oh, of course we do honey!” Natalia cooed, moving closer and brushing dark curls from the girl’s face.  “You are the cutest Fairy Princess I’ve ever seen!”  And, indeed, the girl looked absolutely darling in her layered green and pink dress and gossamer wings.  Sarah smiled shyly, clearly pleased.  She reached forward a tiny hand and tangled it in Natalia’s hair, playing with the waves.  The woman smiled back, nose crinkling in delight.  The girl was so timid that even this was a big step.

“Yeah, and I love your crown Sarah!” Emma added, moving next to her second mother and grinning.

 “What do we say, sweetie?” Jonathan prompted.

 “Thank you.  Like your ring,” the younger girl replied, taking her hand away from Natalia and pointing to Emma’s head.

 “Oh, my halo?  You wanna trade for the night?”

 “Okay.  Daddy, down please,” Sarah requested, kicking her legs impatiently.  With a chuckle, the tall man placed his daughter on the ground, poking her in the ribs. 

 “No, Daddy!”  Sarah scolded, glaring for a moment before turning to her cousin. 

Carefully, the dark-haired girl removed her tiara and walked forward, presenting the piece of plastic to Emma as if it were the most important treasure in the world.  With equal reverence, the older girl removed her own headpiece and handed it over, first affixing her new one in place before helping the smaller girl do the same.

 “Come on, let’s finish watching SpongeBob.”

 “’Kay.” The younger girl agreed, leading the way to the couch.  Within seconds, all three girls were engrossed in the bright colors and odd sounds.

“And just what are you supposed to be, young man?” Olivia asked her nephew, bringing the attention back to the adults.

 “You mean besides painfully handsome?” he countered, winking at her.  “Bond, James Bond,” he clarified, turning to Natalia and taking her hand, placing a kiss on the back.  The smaller woman giggled.

 “Definitely your nephew,” she commented, utterly taken.

 “Easy there, tiger, turn the charm levels down from eleven.  She’s with me,” Olivia muttered, trying hard to appear annoyed, but failing as her fondness for the man shone through in her eyes. It was evident that she adored him and their easy banter.

“Okay, Jane of the Jungle,” Natalia chastised as she pulled away from Jonathan and walked towards the kitchen.  “I’m going to grab my hat and the cookies; you call Doris and tell her we’ll have to meet her in town.”

 “In a second,” Olivia replied, catching the younger woman’s arm and gently pulling her back.  With a wicked glint in her eye, she cupped her lover’s cheek in her palm and slid closer, leaning forward until they were barely an inch apart.  “Jane, mine,” she grunted playfully, and pulled Natalia the last few millimeters forward.  The kiss was slow and deep, and for long moments, both women forgot there were other people around them.  The shorter woman reached up, fingers gripping the silky material of Olivia’s cape, crushing their bodies together as much as possible, considering her pregnant state.

“Ladies, are you going to come up for air, or should I get out the hose?”

Pulling back reluctantly to wolf whistles, Olivia glared at her nephew, who gave her his best wide-eyed look.  She opened her mouth to say something off color, but before the words could pass her lips, the doorbell rang, startling them all. 

“I’ll get it!” Emma shouted.

 “Inside voice,” Olivia said, pulling away from her lover and following their daughter.

   The girl reached the door first, yanking it open with the enthusiasm and excitement that only a child has at the thought of someone at the door.  “Who is it, Bean?”

 “It’s… uh…” Emma trailed off, head tilted to the side.  She knew she recognized the woman standing on the other side of the threshold from somewhere

 “Trick or treat?” the woman at the door purred, leaning casually against the frame.

“Holy crap!” Olivia exclaimed, stepping up behind the girl and gawking at the waiting figure.

 “Olivia!”

 “Mom!” 

 The green-eyed woman winced.  “Sorry!”

 “Well, are you going to invite me in, or do I have to egg your house?” Doris asked, amused by the reactions to her arrival.  Gaping, Olivia moved aside to allow the other woman to strut into the house.  And strut was the only word to properly encapsulate the movement and the attitude - and the outfit.

 “Oh my!” Natalia exclaimed, eyes wide in surprise.

Skin-tight leather pants, which partially covered black Converse high tops, held up by a black leather belt with a ridiculously large silver belt buckle in the shape of the female symbol, were only the beginning of the ensemble.  A form-fitting black tank top with Debbie Harry’s face embossed in white – ripped strategically so that there was a hint of cleavage and midriff – added to the air of what could only be termed ‘Bad Ass-ery’.  Dark aviator glasses and a motorcycle jacket thrown carelessly over one shoulder rocketed the effect into the realm of “Epic with the intent to Awesome,” a phrase Olivia had overheard from a very excited Ashlee months earlier.  Mussed, just-rolled-out-of-bed, black hair completed the look.

“Sweet Je–”  A stern look from Natalia silenced the stunned businesswoman for a moment.  “Let’s try this again.  Who are you, and what have you done with my best friend?”  Olivia heckled, shaking her head in disbelief.

 “I believe she’s at home, buried in a pint of mint choc-chip ice cream.  Her part tonight will be played by Joan Jett of Blackheart fame,” was the easy retort, delivered with a nonchalant shrug.

 “Your hair…”  Natalia breathed, still in shock.

 Doris snorted, gazing at her friend over the top of her glasses.  “Washes out.  Trust me, come Monday morning, there will be no evidence of this.”

 “That’s what you think!” Natalia chuckled, pointing to Emma, who had managed to get a camera and snap a few photos unnoticed.

 “Darn paparazzi,” the “rock star” deadpanned, rolling her eyes but otherwise seeming unconcerned.

 “Tell me about it,” Olivia laughed.  “She’s like a ninja with that thing!”

Catching sight of the eldest of the children hovering at the edge of the group, Doris did a double-take.  “I stand corrected; apparently the role of Mayor Wolfe will be played by Clarissa Marler!” she amended, clearly taken by surprise.  The girl blinked, blushing hotly.  Motioning her forward, Doris bent down to her level. 

 “Are you…did you dress up as me for Halloween?”  Clarissa only nodded, eyes firmly glued to the floor.  The Mayor smiled, obviously delighted.  “And why is that?”

 “Scariest thing she could think of,” Olivia quipped, grimacing at the twin glares she received for her trouble.  “Sheesh!  Some people have no sense of humor!”

 “’Cause my mom says you’re important and powerful.  And you’re real good at softball,” Clarissa replied, shrugging, trying to seem unaffected.

 “Well, I’m very flattered,” Doris said, tugging the girl’s blazer straight and winking.  “You have excellent taste.”

“All right, ladies and gentleman, lets get this show on the road!” Natalia announced, emerging from the kitchen with stacks of Tupperware.

 “Ooo, cookies!” Doris all but moaned, reaching towards the bounty.

 “Ah, ah, ah!  These are for the hosts!” Natalia admonished, slapping the blue-eyed woman’s hand away.

 “Ouch!  Hey, what gives!  That’s no way to treat your guests!” the Mayor grumbled, rubbing her wrist.

 “You’re not a guest, Doris,” Olivia said casually, wrapping an arm around her friend’s neck and half-hugging, half-choking her. 

 “Oh yeah?  What, then?” the Mayor grumbled, prying the arm from her body and scurrying away towards the door. 

 Natalia rolled her eyes at their antics, but smiled as she moved past them to the door.  “That’s easy,” she said motioning for the others to follow with her head.  “You’re family.”

 *~*~*~*

 

 By the end of the evening, the merry group of seven had collected enough sugar to power a small nation…

 “I don’t think that there have ever been this many peanut chews and Hershey’s Kisses in one place… ever!” Doris said, impressed, as she surveyed the chaos that had once been the Spencer-Rivera kitchen table.

 Once the candy was sorted, and after a small misunderstanding…

 “Well now, all we have to do is check it all and…” Natalia trailed off, staring incredulously at her lover.

 “Muroh?” Olivia asked around two cheeks full of candy.  Swallowing hard, she tried again.  “Check it?”

 The loot was divvied up equally so that each party member had just enough to induce a sugar coma, ensuring that no one was left wanting.  And because it was a Saturday, each party member promptly ate half of their booty.  While the children passed out soon after, the crash hitting them as if the Sandman had swung the entire bag at them, adult heads did not hit pillows until well after midnight. 

 In fact, after an hour of sitting around making idle conversation, they decided to hold an impromptu Wii Bowling tournament…

 “You’re cheating!” Jonathan cried, mouth agape as he watched Doris get yet another strike, the screen proclaiming it a ‘Six Pack.’

 “Having a system doesn’t mean cheating.  Stop being a sore loser,” she replied, stepping with unrepentant swagger over to the couch and clapping the man on his shoulder.

 The winner of which was rewarded with Olivia’s secret stash of Andes Candy...

 “Hey, no fair!  I actually bought those!” the hotelier complained as Natalia smirked and devoured the last of her prize.  “And just how did you get so freakishly good at bowling anyway?”

 “Worked at a bowling alley one summer when I was a teenager,” was all Natalia would say.

 “Isn’t that much sugar bad for the baby?” Doris asked, eyeing the last mint longingly.

 “Two days a year I get to eat as much candy as I want; Halloween and Valentine’s Day.  Stop being sore losers!” the Latina gloated, popping the chocolate into her mouth and slowly licking her fingers clean.

 Olivia whimpered, torn between enjoying the view and mourning the loss of her sweets.   “So not fair…”

 *~*~*~*