Title: I Don't.

Author: Chakram

Rating: PG.

Disclaimers: I unfortunately have nothing to do with "The L Word." They belong to Ilene Chaiken and Showtime.

Pairing: Bette and Tina.

Extra comments: Takes place after the season finale. *sniffle* Don't worry, it's more positive than what the title suggests. I was quite hesitant about posting this so let me know if you like it. chakram_au@yahoo.com.au

There is a knock at my door and I look up eagerly, foolishly, hoping that it's Tina.

It isn't.

James cautiously walks in and we lock gazes before he looks away almost instantly. He doesn't have to say a thing, because his expression says it all.

Why? How could you?

He adores Tina, just like everybody else. I had always suspected he had a crush on her. Everytime she smiled at him he would blush, rub his neck and look away shyly. It was rather endearing actually.

"This package just came for you. It's from Sarah Aston."

I move around the desk to meet him. "Thank you James."

He nods quietly and leaves, and I wonder if I will ever feel again, the respect he used to have for me. I push away the feeling of despair which has been my constant companion these past few weeks and curiously regard the package. It is obviously a small painting of some sort, and I wonder what Sarah has in store for me this time.

There is no message, no card. I gently open my surprise gift and gasp. I look at the image in wonder. It is so beautiful that it drives me to my knees and there is nothing, save Tina, that could tear my eyes away. I lean back against my desk and bring up my knees, using it to steady the painting in my quivering hands.

The portrait is of Tina and I.

We had visited Sarah soon after the death of Jackson, her partner of 42 years. Their chalet, hidden away from civilization, was surrounded by breathtaking scenery, and Tina and I had spent hours huddled in each others arms, watching the sky streaked with warm colours during sunset, before overcrowding with brilliant, bright stars.

"I'm sorry," I apologize, hoping Tina isn't too angry with me.



"It's okay," she replies, looking away. I know it isn't. I had promised to leave my cell at home, but with the exhibit only weeks away from opening, I couldn't take any chances.

"Where is Sarah?" I ask, looking around.

"She said something about going for a walk," Tina replies with a shrug. "I'm kind of worried about her."

"She'll be okay," I respond with a reassuring smile. "If I know her as well as I do, she's probably out there somewhere, painting something."

Tina nods. She opens her mouth to speak, but my phone beats her to it and she snaps her mouth shut. Nodding towards the back door, she lets herself out. "What?" I bark into the phone, feeling slight sympathy for the poor soul on the other end.

Ten minutes later and I wonder where Tina has gotten too. I look at my phone and this time, with no hesitation at all, I switch it off. Too many things have gotten in the way lately and I feel myself drifting away from the one person who means more to me than anything. Along with extending our support to Sarah, I saw this as a chance for us to reconnect and spend time alone together.

We desperately needed it.

I find her sitting against the large, towering tree overlooking the back garden and I slowly walk over. It makes me laugh how I am viewed as the dominant personality in our relationship. If they only knew how much power Tina had over me.

I was and always will be completely hers.

"I'm sorry," I apologize again. I wonder if it sounds as pathetic to her ears, as it does to mine.

She smiles gently and pats the ground between her knees. "Come here."

I smile and situate myself in her arms, sighing contently as they tighten around me and her cheek rests against mine.

"I know how busy you are, and I'm sorry if I don't seem as supportive as I should be," Tina begins apologetically in her gentle, melodic voice. "It's just that I..." she falters. "I miss you."

I close my eyes, the combination of guilt and regret overwhelming me. How did we let it get this far? I look up at her. "You have nothing to be sorry for. You support me in ways you don't even realise. I don't know what I'd do without you."

She smiles at me, a smile reserved for me alone, and one that I had not seen in a long time. Centimetres apart, I grin back, the love I feel for this woman engulfing me. It was this moment Sarah had captured so perfectly without our knowledge.

I gently caress the painting with my fingers. Tina's hair, Tina's eyes, Tina's smile, her expression full of love, tenderness, adoration, directed at me, and my image returning it ten fold.

It was there, always there and I wonder how I could have ever questioned its existence.

I continue staring at the painting for god knows how long, until a second knock interrupts the silence.


James steps forward, with a look of confusion at my position on the floor. "Tina is here to see you."

My head snaps up and I want to stand but I don't even attempt to, knowing my legs would fail me. I stare wide eyed at James. "Bring her in," I reply hoarsely. He leaves quickly, and I shake my head sorrowfully at the idea of Tina asking permission to enter my office. I tighten my hold on the painting, comforted by its presence in my arms.

She finally appears. The most beautiful vision I have ever seen. She stands uncertainly, her expression mirroring James only moments earlier. We gaze at each other for what seems like an eternity, before she makes the decision to sit beside me, a fair distance apart from what I'm used to.

It hurts me, but I can't complain. She is here.

"This is how they reward you after the success of Provocations? Where is your throne?" Tina jokes, her tightly clasped hands betraying her confident, but gentle demeanor.

"Franklin bought one to congratulate himself," I reply, my smile widening further as Tina laughs softly. "I'm so happy to finally see you," I continue, my voice cracking with emotion.

"Likewise, Bette," Tina replies sincerely, but without the warmth she naturally exhibits. I cringe, not used to the distant, but polite barriers, Tina has erected around herself. I remind myself this was far more than I deserved.

"It's been so hard waiting," I admit softly.

"I wasn't ready to see you just yet, I needed time."

"I understand." I fight the urge to crawl into her arms, but she surprises me, gazing at me intently, before gently cupping my cheek.

"Alice told me there was a mark on your cheek for several days," Tina explains, her thumb softly grazing the area where the mark had long since disappeared. "I'm so sorry."

"Don't! Don't you ever apologize for that," I reply forcefully. "Don't you apologize for anything! It was me Tina, it was all me! I did this. I did this to us." I want to explain, I want to apologize, I want to beg and plead for forgiveness, profess my love for her over and over and over again, but I do neither of these things.

Tears escape me and I can't speak, sobbing as she gathers me into her arms and holds on tightly. I eventually calm down, but she doesn't let go, her fingers gently tangling themselves in my hair, the familiar touch comforting me.

"I won't accept blame for what you did Bette," Tina begins sadly. "I will accept my share of responsibility for our relationship heading to a point where you felt that you had to...", she falters before continuing, "where you felt you had to look elsewhere."


"Let me speak, Bette." She pulls back, her hands gently grasping my neck, looking directly into my eyes. "My head tells me to run, but my heart won't listen. I love you. I won't let seven years be reduced to images in my head of you... and...and...her..." Tina withdraws from me and as I move awkwardly towards her, she holds up her hand, stopping me.

Again, we sit side by side in silence, trying to compose ourselves. Any sense of happiness I feel at a second chance is overshadowed by the overwhelming pain my actions have caused her. I recall the words Kit prophetically told me one night, as I lay inconsolably in her arms.

"We often do unforgivable things Bette, which is why people like Tina exist in this world. They give us fools second chances, and make us want to become better people."

I snap back to reality as Tina gestures to the painting I still hold tightly in my arms. "May I?"

I carefully hand it over and smile softly as she gasps in surprise, awe and wonder settling over her beautiful features.

"She saw it," I say after minutes of silently gazing at the painting. "Sarah saw it. We lost sight of it, but she still saw it."

Tina nods without a word as she stands abruptly, and I wonder if she has changed her mind. My panic must have shown as she smiles softly and holds out her hand. With strength that shouldn't surprise me, but still does, she pulls me up, and we stand face to face.

"Did you know what Alice said to me?"

"That I'm a fucking fucker?" I reply half jokingly.

"Besides that," Tina replies with a smile. "She told me the phrase 'They were made for each other' applies to us. I believe that, despite everything." She holds up the painting and once again, we are mesmerized by it. "This is worth saving. We are worth saving."

The grin I'm sporting threatens to split my head in two. I move to reply but am unable to speak, simply overcome. I thread my fingers through her hair and place my forehead against hers.

Tina smiles teasingly as she wraps her arms around my waist. "I haven't seen you cry this much since Kit accidentally taped over your Buffy episodes."

I pull back slightly with a laugh, my vision blurred by my tears. "I love you T, so much."

"I know," she replies seriously. "If I doubted that for one second, I wouldn't be here." I nod before she continues. "It's going to be hell, Bette. I want answers."

"We'll find them together," I reply, mustering up the courage to kiss her softly and I'm pleased, and relieved, to see the bright eyes and the slight flush to her cheeks.

With a shy, endearing smile, she steps away. "I need to go, I'll call you, okay?"

"Wait." I step forward and hold out the painting. "In case you need reminding," I explain hesitantly. Despite the last few minutes, I'm still terrified Tina will change her mind and leave me.

She smiles at me, with the same expression Sarah so accurately captured in paint, before walking out.

"I don't."

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