Chapter Notes: Written for the schmoop_bingo prompt "New Year celebration".

Inamorata: Chapter 1 :: New Year's Day
By A. Magiluna Stormwriter

++ Monica ++


"Five… Four… Three… Two… One… Happy New Year!"

The strains of "Auld Lang Syne" waft tinnily through the speakers as we all stand outside by the gazebo. A quick glance around me brings a smile to my face as I see all of the couples -- triples, multiples -- leaning in for that first kiss of the New Year. A thrill of emotion tingles down my spine at the emotions surrounding me.

Karen and Darya still nuzzle and cling together as if newlyweds, despite the fact that they've been together for just over eight years now. Then again, having just been given the green light to resume certain aspects of their life, now that little Wynnie is two months old, has brought out a far more playful side to their interactions, even in public. Of course, their co-family are just as bad: Janet still rules the household, but Sam and Art worship her almost giddily. Zo and Kerry have mellowed into a lovely couple, having always shared a kind of zen bent to their relationship; just like that Alex and Rachel have finally, fully achieved. The younger couples, as I teasingly refer to some of them, each bring their own levels of intimacy to their kisses: Joan and Sandy, Cindy and Boxer, even Alex and Olivia. Dace and her pack are conspicuously absent, having chosen to take the parenting duties for all of the children, letting the grownups have some much deserved alone time on this one night of the year. Anastasia and Tessa are in the corner, happily trading kisses to celebrate a relationship that I hope to emulate when Dana and I have been together for as long as they have.

Perhaps most telling to me are the sweet little kittenish kisses shared by Alexis and Tory. They've come so far in the few years since they've gotten together. Soon enough, we'll be celebrating the anniversary of the day Tory was brought to the Ranch and into our lives. Alexis has become almost normal over the last two and a half years, thanks to the strange and special bond she shares with Tory. It's the closest thing I've ever seen to a proper Sentinel-Guide relationship, and yet Tory doesn't display any outward signs of Guide tendencies. It's been a delicious puzzle to try to figure out over the years and I--

"Stop it, Mon." Dana's gentle voice, accompanied by her fingers curving around the point of my chin, brings me back to the woman in my arms. "Let them have their moment alone."

"I wasn't--"

I am unable to finish whatever it was I was going to say as she leans up on her toes, her lips pressing lightly to mine for the briefest of moments. Pulling back with a teasing flick of her tongue across my lower lip, she grins up at me saucily.

"How about you not worry about playing Mama Bear to the whole clan out here for one night, hmm?"

Grinning sheepishly, I lean in to brush the tip of my nose against hers. "Have I mentioned lately that I love you?"

Instead of letting her answer me, I shift slightly to capture her lips with mine. Pulling her closer, my hands ease around her waist to ground me in the present, unwilling to ever let her go again. Her lips are soft, slightly sticky from the wine she was drinking before Rachel passed out the champagne. Of its own volition, my tongue flicks out to trace her lips, gliding against her skin slowly to gather up the sticky sweetness clinging there. The heady scent of her beloved merlot combines with the sandalwood oil blend that she's taken to wearing, surrounding me in one of the most comforting and enticing smells in my entire life. I could easily become addicted to this particular blend.

Dana's soft groan ghosts across my mouth, sending a shiver down my spine and encouraging me to deepen the kiss. My tongue meets very little resistance as it slips between her lips. I spend countless seconds -- minutes? hours? days? -- just exploring her mouth, stroking and tasting every possible spot that my tongue can reach, until I'm quite sure I've memorized it thoroughly. Only then do I let my tongue glide against hers, bold enticement to tangle sensuously with mine.

Her hands move up along my arms until her fingers are threading in my hair, gripping tightly to bring me even closer. Shifting to rebalance myself in this new position, a low moan escapes my own lips and I want nothing more than to brand her as mine, great bold letters to proclaim it to all who ever look at her. She is the greatest thing to come into my life, and I never want to let go of her. Not even in death.

"Mon," she murmurs raggedly, pulling back from the kiss finally; the husky tone sending another shiver of delicious desire slithering down my spine to pool between my legs. "Not here, babe."

And then, like a switch being flipped, the real world intrudes upon the neat little fantasy world that consists of only me, Dana, and massive amounts of kissing. Feeling the heat of the blush coloring my face, I close my eyes and rest my forehead against Dana's, an odd combination of embarrassment and arousal at war within me. Slowly, my heart slows its rapid beating as she continues to murmur nonsense. Sure, she's probably just doing it out of some sort of embarrassment on her own part, but the steady sound of her voice grounds me back into the here and now once again.

"Damn, Monica!" Zo calls out, chuckling. "Can we have an encore? That was kinda hot!"

That flush of embarrassment heats my skin again, and a quick glance proves that Dana's just as red-faced as I am right now. Kerry's amused admonishment helps a little, as does Zo's yelp of surprise when Kerry's crutch lands against some part of her body. Within another brief brush of our lips, I straighten and turn to face these women who have become more of a family than I'd ever hoped to have.

"There will be no encore, you pervs!" I snap back, mock-glaring at Zo, who pouts and sticks her tongue out at me. "So don't ask!" That sends a ripple of laughter through the assembled group, lightening the mood once again for my beloved Dana. Turning to grab the champagne flutes I'd set on the gazebo railing before the countdown started, I hand one to Dana and raise the other in my own hand. "So, just a small toast" -- this is met with good-natured groans -- "before we head back inside where it's warmer."

"Can't we do this inside?" Rachel complains. "It's warmer in there."

"Well, shut up and let me talk, then we can go inside." I can't help the laughter that bubbles up when she gives me a one-fingered salute. Dana's gasp of surprise from next to me only makes me laugh harder. "First off, Rachel, you need to spend less time with Dace. She's rubbed off way too much on you."

"As if!" she retorts with a broad grin.

Rolling my eyes, I lift my glass in her direction in salute. "Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for joining us in our New Year's celebration tonight. Yes, we could have done all of this inside, but I thought it would be nice to welcome in the new year outside. So goodbye to 2005 and hello to 2006. May this be a banner fucking year for the Ranch and all of us living here."

Every glass is raised to the toast amid easy laughter, and we spend a couple of minutes moving around to clink glasses with everyone present. Finally, it's time to sip at our champagne, which is absolutely fantastic. I know Anastasia and Tessa have already planned to send a thank you to Sylvia for this particular suggestion, but I think I need to send one of my own. And maybe see about getting a bottle or two myself, just for me and Dana.

Once the glasses are drained, everyone begins to head into the great room to continue whatever festivities we're going to have in the blessed heat. Even I can admit that it's damned cold out this late at night in the middle of winter. Thankfully, everybody's been really good about making sure to bus their own trash back inside, but Dana still does a quick check of the area once everyone's back inside. As she passes by, my hand snakes out to pull her close again.

"Hey," I murmur softly, forehead resting against hers again.

"Hey, yourself," she replies, smiling up at me. "Happy New Year, Mon."

"Happy New Year to you, too, Dana. So, what do you say we make a quick appearance, then ditch the rest of the festivities?"

Her delighted laughter surrounds me like an old familiar blanket. "I'm surprised you're even suggesting we do that, Mon. I figured you'd want to just sneak off to our place."

"Nope. Zo and Rachel would notice and probably come pound on our door and howl badly. Or get Dace to come do it for them."

"You're probably right." Dana leans up to press a quick kiss to my lips. "Let's go make the rounds of goodnights to the gang and head home. I think I want to take advantage of you tonight. I mean, I want to take advantage of a night without William, so we can sleep in late tomorrow morning."

Chuckling darkly, I swat at her ass lightly. "You are so on, Dana, my love."