Slaying Saint George by Harper

Title: Slaying Saint George
Author:
Harper
Rating:
R
Fandom:
Law and Order: SVU, Soul Food, and Law and Order
Pairings:
Alex/Teri, Alex/Abbie
Archiving:
This will be at www.realmoftheshadow.com/harper.htm. List archives are welcome to it, but anyone else please ask.
Disclaimers:
I don’t own the show or the characters. Dick Wolf and Showtime, respectively, have the rights to those. I’m just borrowing them. I get no money and mean no infringement.
Spoilers:
Soul Food up to Never Can Say Goodbye. After that, things take place in the made up world conjured by my mind. No real spoilers for L&O:SVU and one hopefully fairly well known one for L&O.
Public Health Disclaimer:
I don’t think that unprotected sex is a good idea, but I didn’t include the safer version here. For one thing, its fiction so I can make everything turn out well. For another, its just not as fun to write. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I think it was a smart thing for any of the people in this story to engage in, and I certainly don’t advocate it, hypocritical as it may be.
A/N:
Once again, in my mind Abbie never left the DA’s office. I’ve taken some liberties… well, okay, broad liberties, with the canon for all shows involved. Mainly you’ll find some timeline quibbles if you look hard enough, and some of my facts may be a bit off. All for story development, I assure you. If you don’t know who Teri is, or if you’re not familiar with the show "Soul Food", then I suggest that you look at the following page: http://www.paramount.com/television/soulfood/abouttheshow/characters.html.
I’ve placed Abbie and Alex in the same building, office wise. I should probably also mention that I undoubtedly drew heavily on Sharon Bowers’ work for some of my background on Abbie. My apologies to Sharon, though I probably did it unintentionally. Her stuff is great, and what’s really canon and what I’ve picked up from her fics has melded together in my head, so I can’t say what came from Dick Wolf and what came from her. This is un-beta’d, so it undoubtedly contains numerous errors. For the sake of my ego, please overlook them. I’ll go ahead and warn you that this is pretentiously long, but like Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys, I just couldn’t stop. If you’d like to send feedback, I’d love to receive it. I’ll be at Xfjnky2@yahoo.com

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 |

Part 2

Alex stretched, her muscles screaming out deliciously as they flexed and pulled. She hadn’t felt this good in… well, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt this good. Being able to lounge around in bed, thoroughly sated and full of nothing but lazy intent, was something that she’d missed. It was nice to wake up and know that her day wasn’t going to be filled with working on briefs or doing some shopping or light cleaning or any of the other thousand boring, mundane things that could have occupied her free time. Teri was still sleeping soundly beside her, no doubt the exertion of the night before combining with jet lag to have her down for the count, and so Alex slid out of bed, pulling on a thin robe as she padded into the bathroom.

Moments later found her under a stream of hot water, and she simply stood for a moment, enjoying the feeling. She was happy, which wasn’t an emotion that she was especially familiar with. Sure, she was good at the more even keel feelings, was used to going through her days not feeling particularly sad or particularly happy or particularly upset over anything, but this was different. This was happiness, and she could feel it all the way from her toes to the little smile that she just couldn’t keep off her face.

Which, once she realized the source of it all, made her sober up a bit. All of this happiness had its genesis in the woman laying amidst the rumpled sheets of her bed, and that meant that as soon as that woman left, so would the feeling. Not that she was about to hie herself to the front of the co-dependency line or anything of the like, but Alex was well aware that when Teri left, there would be nothing but work and the little things she invented to escape work and countless hours of wondering whether or not Teri was going to call. Because, that was the way she could see things playing out, when she pictured them in her head. Alex wasn’t going to delude herself. Teri had all of the power in the ‘relationship’ they had, and she would be the one to decide whether or not it would continue or whether or not this little interlude would be sufficient to satisfy her needs, because Alex certainly wasn’t going to turn down anything she offered.

Suddenly her shower didn’t feel as good as it had moments before, the water returning to the way it usually felt, and with a sigh born out of frustration with her own pragmatism, she poured a healthy dollop of herbal shower gel on her loofah, working it into a mass of foam.

Teri was still asleep when she stepped out of the bathroom, bringing a cloud of steam with her towel swathed figure, and for a moment Alex stopped to savor the sight. It’d been a long, long time since she’d had anyone in her bed, and she liked the way it looked. The mattress didn’t seem so vast with a tousled head taking up one of her pillows, and the sheets didn’t look quite so sterile wrapped around the bare flesh of another.

Exchanging her towel for her robe, Alex padded into the kitchen, bare feet hardly making a sound against the cool wood beneath them. Moments later the rich smell of brewing coffee started to filter through the apartment, and as Alex brought her cup to her lips for her first sip of the day, Teri seemed to materialize above the steaming rim, her once wild hair combed into a semblance of order, Alex’s soft blue sheet wrapped around her body.

For a moment Alex blushed, unable to keep images of the night before from flooding her mind, especially in light of the shy look being directed her way from the suddenly hesitant Teri, but she shook away any embarrassment she might have been feeling. Eyes beckoning, she reached over, drawing forward the cup that she’d already taken down from the cabinet in preparation, filling it nearly three-quarters full with the rich smelling brew.

"Are you hungry? I have anything you might possibly want to eat," Alex said softly, unwilling to sully the early morning softness of the moment by raising her voice.

Moving further into the kitchen, drawing the lagging tail of the sheet behind her like a trail, Teri made her way over to one of the stools lining the floating island bisecting the room, sliding into it gingerly.

"Coffee’s fine for now," she replied with a smile. It was hard, thinking up things to say, especially when she’d rather not say anything at all. Sometimes it was better to just sit in silence, to enjoy the morning and her first cup of coffee and not have to worry about coming up with clever conversation.

After pouring the cup and sliding it across the tiled expanse of her counter, Alex found herself at a loss. She hadn’t been in this situation for a long, long time, and she didn’t know what to do. She wanted… she wasn’t sure what she wanted. She wanted to talk to Teri, to get to know her better, to entice the other woman to want to get to know her better as well. But, she didn’t know how to start, and she wasn’t completely sure that she had anything of importance to say anyway. So, after a few more quiet sips of coffee, minutes in which the silent pressure filling the room became almost unbearable in Alex’s mind, she stood suddenly, her chair scraping against the floor, drawing Teri’s attention.

"I have some things that I really need to take care of," Alex said, eyes downcast. She was chickening out, was going to run away and hide in the comfort and security of her office, but even knowing what a coward she was wasn’t going to do anything to change her plans. "I want you to feel comfortable here, so if there’s anything you need, just let me know."

Teri nodded slowly, and Alex felt compelled to add, "You probably think I’m a terrible hostess, leaving you alone…"

Raising a hand to stop the flow of apologies that she could feel radiating out from the blonde, Teri smiled. "Alex, really, its okay. Actually, I think I’d like to be alone for a little while. Get my bearings, you know. You go ahead and take care of work… I’ll take a shower, get dressed, maybe even go out and do some shopping."

"I’ll go with you," Alex blurted, then stopped, forcing herself to slow down. "What I mean is, surely I’ll be finished by then, and I’m certainly not going to abandon you completely. I just need a little time this morning to get things taken care of…"

"Its alright, Alex. I understand," Teri said softly, watching with an amused smile as color rose up through Alex’s cheeks.

Alex breathed a sigh of relief, then turned soft blue eyes up to meet gold. "Its not you…"

"I know. I need a little time too, so don’t worry about it."

Rubbing her thumb and forefinger along the width of her forehead, Alex capitulated, realizing that she was only muddying up a situation that would have been fine had she stopped speaking while she was ahead.

"I… so yeah… I’ll just be in my office," she muttered, shaking her head as she made her way out into the living room, unaware of the bemused smile being directed at her back.

Two hours later, Teri emerged from Alex’s room, having lingered under the hot water in the shower for far longer than she normally would have, and after having moving through her dressing procedure leisurely, enjoying for once the sensation of having all the time in the world. She had decided to leave work behind for the weekend, and though she might find herself cursing the decision on Monday, at the moment it felt divine to have a day of nothing but self-indulgence stretching out in front of her.

Buoyed by a good mood that had as much to do with a particular blonde as it did anything else, Teri went in search of Alex, meandering lazily through the apartment until she stumbled onto the office. Alex was still wearing her robe, but a pair of small rectangular black glasses were perched on her nose and her now dry hair was pushed back behind her ears as she worried the tip of a pen between her teeth, eyes scanning rapidly over one of the dozens of papers scattered across the desk in front of her.

"I’ll bet your dentist would have a fit."

Startled out of her concentration by the apparent non sequiter, Alex looked up in confusion to find Teri leaning against the doorframe, a small smile lighting up her features. Mind still working to piece together what the other woman had said and make any kind of coherent sense out of it, she said the only thing that immediately sprang to mind.

"Huh?"

Teri couldn’t help but be amused, and drawn, by the sight. Alex looked so adorably lost, with her nose wrinkled in mystification, blue eyes peering over the top of her glasses and pen dangling loosely from her fingers, now forgotten.

Crossing the room in a few strides, Teri plucked the offending item from Alex’s hand, drawing it up to eye level and looking significantly at the multitude of bite marks marring the once pristine plastic surface. Alex had the grace to blush before snatching the pen back, shoving it carelessly into a cup filled with dozens more pens, all similarly marked. "It’s a nervous habit," she explained needlessly, smiling sheepishly. She was sincerely hoping that she could manage to appear more sane than she had that morning, but things didn’t appear to be starting off too well for her.

Idly flicking through the pens, not really paying attention to what she was doing but needing an outlet for the little frissom of nervous tension pulling her muscles taut, Teri ventured, "So, you said something about wanting to go with me this afternoon? If you’re too busy with work, I understand, but…"

"Not busy at all," Alex interrupted, hastily slamming shut the file folder that she had spread out in front of her. Rising quickly from her chair, she looked around for a moment in stupefaction, then added, "just a little underdressed. How about giving me thirty minutes?"

"Thirty minutes?" Teri asked with the quirk of a brow. "That’s all you need?"

Grinning ruefully, Alex stepped around the desk, stopping inches away from the other woman. "I’m remarkably low maintenance," she murmured, before darting forward for a quick kiss.

Seconds later, as she moved to pull back, Alex felt slim fingers sneak around the back of her neck, holding her in place. After deepening the kiss, Teri finally moved away herself, letting Alex’s lower lip slide easily from the grip of her teeth.

"I’ll be waiting in the living room," she said before turning to leave. When Alex finally caught her breath, she followed.

XXXXXXXXXX

It was inevitable that, as soon as they managed to get seated, Alex’s cell phone rang. A short, crisp conversation later, and they were leaving with regrets to the maitre’d, unfilled stomachs, and just a tad bit of irritation.

"Sorry about this," Alex said for perhaps the fifth time as she pushed open the doors to the squad room. A quick look around confirmed her worst fears. Not only were there several familiar faces loitering about, but almost all of them were staring in abashed curiosity at the pair.

Pushing back the nervousness and panic that had sudden sprang to the fore at the unwelcome attention, Alex made her way over to Olivia Benson’s desk, immediately drawing the attention of the two partners waiting there.

"Olivia… Eliot… this is my good friend and colleague from Chicago, Teri Joseph. She was in town and we were catching up when I got the page," Alex said shortly, intensely aware of the heat of Teri’s body burning into her side. She felt as if all of the scrutiny being turned their way would somehow unearth the truth, and so she stepped away, putting another few inches of distance between them. "Do you think this is going to take long, because I’d really like to return to my evening.

Giving the blonde an apologetic grin, Olivia shrugged. "No way to tell, really. He hasn’t talked yet, but the evidence we’ve got is enough to bury him. Of course, he’s not really the important one here… his boss is. We were hoping you could offer him some incentive to convince share a little information with us"

Sighing in consternation, throwing an apologetic glance Teri’s way, Alex said wearily, "Fine then. Put us in Conference Room One."

There was a furtive glance between the partners, both Benson and Stabler looking at the other as if to will him or her to say what both clearly were unwilling to say, until finally Olivia looked up with a less than happy expression on her face. "Uh, Carmichael’s already in One. Two should be empty though."

"Carmichael?" Alex echoed, head tilted slightly to the side as if she were certain that she hadn’t heard them correctly. The name alone gave her a headache.

Alex had been new to the SVU, still not on stable ground and trying to make a name for herself while getting a good grasp on what she was doing, when she’d first met Abbie Carmichael. To say it had been unpleasant would perhaps be an understatement of enormous proportions. Cataclysmic would probably have been more appropriate.

It had been a long day, her second Friday as the special prosecutor in charge of handling SVU cases, and Alex was none too happy about being called back less than an hour after she’d left for home to help with an interrogation. All she’d wanted to do was go back to her loft, kick off the shoes that had been killing her feet since eight o’clock that morning, open up a bottle of something wonderfully intoxicating and ponder over the wisdom of her decision to go to law school in the first place. Fate hadn’t provided for that in its plans, apparently, and so she found herself striding back into the squad room a little past eight, still wearing the rumpled suit that she’d put on almost twelve hours earlier, make-up undoubtedly completely worn away, and shoulders hunched over with fatigue only to find the interrogation room a bit too crowded.

All conversation had stopped as she’d opened the door, revealing a sullen looking young man, a fresh-faced young lawyer in a suit that couldn’t have gotten any more traditional unless his mother had actually picked it out for him, and the sharp, cutting dark eyes of a striking brunette dressed all in black. The brunette was sitting on Alex’s side of the table, irritation flashing through her gaze at the interruption, and unsure of what to do, Alex had stood awkwardly in the doorway for a moment, eyes flitting back and forth between the room’s occupants. She felt like the odd woman out, which didn’t quite make sense to her work weary mind.

"Do you mind?" the brunette asked, her low voice rough and tinged with impatience, and Alex felt the first blush of anger settle low in her spine. She didn’t know who this interloper was, but she’d just made Alex’s list of undesirables.

When she spoke, her voice was cool, unruffled, despite the erratic beating of her heart. "I’m sorry. I’m afraid I don’t know who you are. My name is Alexandra Cabot, and I’m the ADA in charge of the SVU, and it appears that you’re in the wrong place."

"Abbie Carmichael, ADA, and you’re interrupting," came the abrupt reply, and Alex felt her hands curl into loose fists. It was the only thing she could do, considering the irrational urge she had to claw the other woman’s eyes out.

Pausing a moment, willing herself into calmness, Alex continued, "I see. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind taking a small break then, Ms. Carmichael. I’d like to speak with you."

There was a slight tic in the tiny muscles under Abbie’s right eye, and then, "Not right now. If you don’t mind, I’d like to continue here."

Furious, but unwilling to cause a further scene, Alex nodded stiffly, backing out of the doorway. Slipping into the observation room adjacent to the room that she’d just been effectively kicked out of, she flicked on the speakers, eyes glued to the scene in front of her.

And, she’d witnessed nothing short of the most skillful verbal flaying she’d ever seen. Not five minutes after her interruption, Abbie had everything she wanted from the perp sitting across from her. Using razor sharp eyes that seemed to miss nothing, the low, intimidating timbre of her voice, and a series of rapid-fire questions that had even the wet behind the ears defense attorney’s head spinning, she boxed the hapless criminal into a corner, and then she took away the box.

He’d gone down on a plea and had been grateful for it, and Alex wondered if she’d inadvertently stumbled onto a demonstration of how, exactly, to conduct an interrogation. But then she’d remembered her earlier agitation, and by the time the cutting Ms. Carmichael emerged triumphant from her recent victory, Alex pounced.

"I don’t appreciate your interference here," she’d said quietly, sidling up beside the still smirking brunette. "This is my division, and I’m the one who makes the deals."

Abbie had merely spared her a small grin, flicking long sable hair back over her shoulder as she looked directly into Alex’s eyes, her own glowing sardonically. "Look kid, I don’t need your permission to do my job, and I sure as hell don’t have time to stand here and listen to you whine. Unless you’ve got something of importance to say, why don’t you run along on home."

Alex fumed in silence for a moment, color rising up through her cheeks as she processed the words. "Listen here," she hissed, drawing closer to Abbie, though the other woman didn’t seem at all intimidated by her aggressive posture, "I don’t know who you think you are, but you have no authority here, and I’m going to make sure that I never see you anywhere near one of my cases again. Now, I suggest that you do the ‘running along on home’, or at least crawl back to wherever it is that you belong, because it certainly isn’t here."

Throwing a sideways glance at the obviously agitated blonde, Abbie smirked. "Sweetheart, I suggest that you find out just who you’re threatening before you go around handing out orders that you can’t back up. I’m more than happy to depart and leave you to it tonight, but don’t think for one minute that that means you’ve won some kind of battle. I imagine it’d be in your best interests to do a little investigating, find out some facts, and then figure out what’s really going on here."

And so Alex had, and had been chagrined to learn that Abbie was the bright burning star of the Narcotics division, something that Alex felt certain that she should have known. And then, Abbie was the up and coming newcomer in the ADA’s office, working right alongside Executive ADA Jack McCoy, and she could still remember the way her supervisor had laughed at her when she’d asked just why, exactly, this Carmichael thought she had any right to be in the SVU.

"Because she’s one of the best, Cabot, and if I were you, I’d take some notes."

Which, of course, did nothing to endear the other woman to the ever ambitious Alex Cabot. The tension between them after that had been nothing short of unbearable, which is why it was a rarity to see them in the squad room at the same time, and one of the reasons why neither of the partners had wanted to give out that particular bit of information.

After that initial confrontation, which none of the detectives had witnessed but about which everyone had heard, Benson and Stabler were well aware of the animosity arcing between the two attorneys. To them, its origin wasn’t particularly clear, but that didn’t make them any less leery of getting caught in the middle of a skirmish between the two women, each more than formidable in her own way, and Stabler winced as he saw a spark of fury spring to light in Alex’s eyes. All he’d wanted was a nice, peaceful end of the day, something to calm him down before he headed home to the wife and kids.

With a small shake of the head, Alex pulled herself back into the present. She could feel Teri shifting uneasily by her side, and sighed internally. What a wonderful way to ruin their night. Speaking of, she had to find something to occupy Teri.

"Olivia?" Alex asked with a small smile, "do you mind if Teri sits at your desk while I’m gone? Maybe she could borrow your computer to check her e-mail."

Breathing a small smile of relief that Alex seemed more distracted than agitated, Olivia acquiesced. "No problem. As long as she doesn’t mind what has to be one of the most uncomfortable chairs in creation, that is."

Teri laughed softly at that. She’d been feeling awkward before that, standing with Alex in the middle of the bustling squad room, both drawing attention with their overly formal evening wear. And, too, she’d felt the odd tension that had momentarily stiffened Alex’s form, had seen and heard the slight hesitation, the tinge of anger, and was glad that whatever moment her companion had seemed to be having was over. Not that she was thrilled about hanging out in a precinct in one of her best dresses, surrounded by the curious eyes of strangers, but she’d survive.

"I’m sure I can make do, Detective Benson," Teri said lightly, sliding into the proffered chair. "I hope it won’t inconvenience you."

The dark-haired detective smiled widely, shaking her head gently. "I won’t even be here to inconvenience."

Alex hung back for a second as Benson and Stabler disappeared, both heading off to kick-start things with the perp they’d left stewing. She looked at Teri apologetically for a moment before leaning her hip against the desk, voice low as she spoke. "I really am sorry about this. I hope it won’t take too long, but you never can tell. Are you sure you just don’t want me to give you the keys to the loft and get you a cab? I hate to think of you waiting out here for God only knows how long."

Smiling reassuringly, Teri murmured, "I’ll be fine, Alex. Run along and take care of this so we can get back to our evening."

Shooting Teri one more chagrined glance, Alex pushed herself up off the desk ledge and started to make her way down the hall. Head down as she muttered to herself, more than unhappy with the way the evening had ground to a halt, she didn’t see the door in front of her opening in time to stop, and didn’t even realize that it had until she plowed head-first into an only slightly forgiving wall of black.

There was a muttered "Oompf" and the sound of skin smacking against the hard wood of the door’s back, and Alex looked up, horrified.

"I’m so sorry," she started, then trailed off when her gaze came up to focus on amused dark eyes.

Oh, and didn’t this just make her evening perfect.

"Ms. Cabot… I wasn’t aware that our little tiff had extended to actual physical violence," Abbie Carmichael joked lightly, moving aside a bit so that the people left in the room could make their way around her. Alex watched distractedly as a pair of detectives lead a cuffed young man out of the room, then once again focused on the other woman’s smirking face.

"If you’ll excuse me, I was just on my way to Two. And I’m sorry about that, really," Alex said quickly, her body oddly tense under the other woman’s scrutiny. She wanted to get away, and she wanted to do so as quickly as possible, but from the way Abbie crossed her arms lazily over her chest, she didn’t see that happening.

Dark eyes traced down Alex’s form, catching on the length of exposed leg swathed in sheer black silk, the slinky sleeveless evening gown. "And here I thought we could get away with casual wear on the weekends, Ms. Cabot," the Texan drawled, watching with amusement as a light flush crept up the other woman’s fair cheeks.

Pushing down the rising irritation inching up her spine, Alex managed to say calmly, "I was enjoying an evening out with a friend from out of town, an evening that I’d like to return to as quickly as possible. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll just be going."

Abbie’s eyes flitted up at Alex’s words, searching the squad room briefly before catching on Teri’s profile. Her brows furrowed for a second as the beautiful stranger’s presence and Alex’s words put themselves together in her consciousness, and she muttered, "Well, I’ll be."

Frowning slightly, Alex looked up. "You’ll be what?" she questioned sharply, patience growing thin.

"I’ll be doing you a favor," Abbie said, mentally catching herself. "You go ahead and enjoy your night, and I’ll take care of whoever’s in Two."

For a second, Alex stood unmoving, dumbfounded. "I can take care of it," she finally managed to choke out, eyes narrowed in confusion at the other woman’s offer.

Sighing, Abbie looked in Alex’s eyes, her own a bit weary. "I’m quite sure that you can, but I’m giving you a chance to return to your date and not be stuck here all evening. Why don’t you get over whatever it is that you have against me long enough to take a chance when its offered."

Alex spluttered for a second, then drew her shoulders up, looking Abbie squarely in the eye. "I appreciate it, Ms. Carmichael."

As she turned to leave, Alex was stopped short by the other woman’s voice. "Just one condition," Abbie said, her tone neutral.

Grinding her teeth together, Alex swung around slowly. "A condition. Of course," she drawled. She shouldn’t have expected anything less.

"Next time you see me, see if you can keep a lid on the assault and battery impulses, okay," Abbie said softly, quirking a smile.

Despite herself, Alex felt a smile crease her own lips. "I really am sorry about that," she repeated, feeling the tension in her shoulders evaporate.

"Uh-huh. Just keep it in mind, Ms. Cabot. Now go, I’ve got work to do."

Shaking her head in consternation, a small smile ghosting across her features, Alex turned and made her way back into the main squad room, catching a bright smile from Teri as she did so.

"Back so soon? Miss me already?" Teri asked teasingly, leaning back in the chair she was occupying, the old wood giving out a creak at the move.

Rolling her eyes slightly, Alex motioned for Teri to stand up. "No. I’m finished here, and unless you really want to stick around, I was thinking that there were better things for us to be doing."

An eyebrow crept up Teri’s forehead as she looked at Alex with something akin to amazement. "Finished already? Maybe I should have gone into prosecution. My cases always seem to take longer than five minutes to resolve."

"Actually, Abbie volunteered to handle it for me," the blonde said, smirking slightly at the words. She hadn’t ever actually said the other woman’s name with anything approaching friendship or appreciation in her voice, and it felt odd to hear them roll of her tongue with no bitterness or acrimony behind them.

"Abbie?" Teri asked questioningly, looking at Alex with a pantomime of jealousy coloring her features. "Just who is this Abbie?"

Reaching down to snag Teri’s coat from the back of the chair, Alex passed it off to her companion, urging her toward the door. "Abbie Carmichael. She’s with the DA’s office."

Looking at Alex out of the corner of her eye, Teri said speculatively, "Carmichael. Isn’t that the name no one appeared to want to speak to you? I mean, from the look on the detective’s face earlier, you would have thought that telling you that Carmichael was in Conference Room One was tantamount to telling you that rabid hyenas had escaped the zoo and were nesting in your office."

Alex laughed shortly, pushing her way through the swinging double doors of the squad room and back out into the hallway. "We didn’t have a pleasant first meeting, to put it lightly, and I can’t say that things ever improved from there. Until tonight, of course…"

With that she trailed off, brow furrowing lightly in thought. She’d just realized that Abbie had referred to Teri as her date.

XXXXXXXXXX

As Alex closed the door behind her, she took in the air in her apartment. It seemed a little sad, a little bereft, but then again, she was those things as well so it was no doubt just her imagination at play. After what had to have been one of the best weekends of her life, she was alone once more, having seen Teri off at the airport nearly an hour earlier. That left her feeling rather empty, and rather at loose ends as well, and so Alex wandered into the kitchen. After staring listlessly at the contents of her refrigerator for several minutes, she gave the endeavor up completely and resigned herself to returning to the one constant in her life… work.

Unable and unwilling to stay in her depressingly empty apartment any longer, she filled a briefcase full of papers and headed off toward the office, throwing on a coat as she went. It was getting progressively colder as the days shortened, and since Alex had always been cold natured as it was, she found herself wrapped up far earlier than most everyone else in the city.

The wind was brisk, which was why she showed up at the office with rosy cheeks, the one hand not obligated to hold her briefcase stuffed determinedly into a side pocket. Stalking over to the elevator, she punched the up button before setting her briefcase down and cupping her hands together in front of her mouth, trying to blow some warmth back into them. That was how Abbie found her moments later when the elevator doors slid open, and the brunette stopped dead in her tracks, her body not quite in yet not quite out of the elevator.

"Cold?" she asked inanely, then mentally cringed. She’d hoped… well, she didn’t know what she’d hoped. Maybe she’d managed to persuade herself that things would thaw between herself and Alex Cabot after her gesture the night before, but undoubtedly she’d been mistaken and their interactions would be just as icy as everything between them had been up to that point.

Frowning, Alex pulled her hands away from her face. She couldn’t help the automatic urge to ignore the other woman that sprang to the fore of her mind, but pushing it down she resolved to be polite if for no other reason than because she’d look like a colossal ass for continuing their feud after the friendly overture that the other woman had made the night before.

"The wind is fairly brisk," she replied sharply, reaching down to pick up her briefcase.

The elevator doors started to close, but popped back open with a ding when they registered Abbie’s continued presence in their track, and the brunette stepped forward awkwardly, grimacing in chagrin. For the first time, Alex noted that Abbie was dressed as casually as herself, in a pair of worn jeans and a faded gray University of Texas sweatshirt, and she couldn’t help but recognize the change that it seemed to bring over the normally formidable woman.

Convinced that what had been trying to pass for conversation between them couldn’t get any worse than it currently was, Abbie stepped out of the way with a sigh. "Alright then. Guess I’ll see you later."

An inner voice seemed to scream to Alex that she shouldn’t leave things the way they were, that she owed Abbie more than that, and cursing them even as she began to speak, Alex said, "Look, I really do appreciate what you did last night. I know that we didn’t get off to the best of starts, and I know that its probably largely my fault. So, I’m suggesting that we call a truce, see how things work out when we’re not avoiding one another or sniping at one another. What do you think?"

Breathing a nearly audible sigh of relief, Abbie’s features instantly lightened, her face breaking into a wide grin. "I think that’s a great idea. Listen, I was headed down the street to get some coffee. The stuff they have here could jump start a 1925 Ford Fairlane. You want to come with me?"

Alex paused for a moment, noticing with some dismay the doors to the elevator closing behind Abbie’s lanky form. "I don’t think they made Ford Fairlanes in 1925," she said distractedly, wondering if there was any way to delicately extract herself from the situation now that her immediate avenue of exit was no longer conveniently open.

"Hyperbole, councilor. Surely you’ve used it yourself," Abbie replied, one thin brow inching up her forehead as she surveyed Alex’s scowl. "You know, come to think of it, you probably don’t want to go back out into the cold again so soon. Don’t worry about it."

Alex felt a pang of guilt and wondered if her hesitance was written as plainly across her features as she feared it was. "No, really, I was just thinking about the mountain of work that I have waiting on me upstairs. Maybe another time?"

"Maybe."

Edging her way past Alex, Abbie crossed the expanse of the lobby quickly, not looking back even when she once again heard the ding of the elevator and could be reasonably sure that the expanse was empty. She’d wanted to look back, though, had wanted to catch one last fleeting glimpse of Alex Cabot.

The woman she could never have.

It hadn’t bothered her before. Of course, she hadn’t really thought Alex was available to her then. The night before, however, had been a revelation, and even if Alex wasn’t technically available to Abbie, then she was at the very least, in that delusional part of her mind, a possibility. Before Alex had been the icy cool, classically beautiful, aloof and definitely unfriendly attorney who had taken up a majority of Abbie’s covert glances. She’d been yet another in a string of women that Abbie couldn’t have, but about whom she fantasized, no doubt because the illusion of hopeless infatuation with a straight, and thus unavailable, woman was ultimately much safer than its alternative.

Now, though, it appeared that Alex wasn’t quite as untouchable as she’d thought.

Of course, there was still the matter of the other woman to deal with. Alex’s companion, who Abbie had noticed, with some dismay, would undoubtedly prove to be a heavyweight contender in the as of yet undeclared war for Alex’s affections. Too, there was Alex’s lingering antagonism, and Abbie’s own reluctance to take any step that might actually put her in reach of her goal, which probably left the situation as hopeless as it was before.

Other than the little spark of hope that she couldn’t seem to shed, Abbie mused, stuffing her hands into her pants pockets as she stepped out into the cool near winter afternoon. Her mind flashed back to the sight of Alex, cheeks tinged pink by the brisk breeze, standing idly outside of the elevator. For a moment, before she’d seen Abbie and before those shields had automatically raised themselves, she’d been more approachable, unguarded, and utterly appealing.

"You’re a fool, Carmichael," Abbie muttered to herself, shaking her head slightly. "There’s not a chance in Hell."

XXXXXXXXXX

"I miss seeing you," Alex murmured warmly, pressing the receiver more closely to her ear, almost as if by doing so she could be near Teri.

There was the soft rustle of paper, a few barely discernable padded footsteps and the soft creak of a door being closed. "I miss seeing you, too," the other woman finally replied, her tone a little breathless.

Alex paused, momentarily uncertain. "Did I catch you at a bad time?" she asked awkwardly, aware now of how intimately she’d started the conversation. Undoubtedly she’d made Teri uncomfortable, and deservedly so. She wasn’t sure if they were there yet, at that ephemeral and indefinable place where things were easy and carefree.

Teri paused for a second, blowing out a breath. "No. Well, I’ve got a client over," she hedged, and Alex could hear the edge of unease in her words.

"A client?" the blonde echoed faintly, a little confused. "At your house?"

"Its… well… its Damon," Teri said with a long, weary sigh.

Alex took in a sharp breath, feeling her heart skip a beat. She knew all about Damon, the man who’d cheated on Teri, who’d broken her heart. The man Teri had been in love with, the man Teri had been trying to get over when they’d met in that bar in Chicago. The man that Alex wasn’t sure Teri had ever really gotten over at all.

Growing increasingly nervous at the protracted silence, Teri began to speak rapidly. "Its just that… well, you know he’s starting up a new business. I’m sure I told you about that, about the sports agent/manager thing. And, well, he asked me for some help getting everything straight legally speaking back before we broke up, and I’d told him yes. He asked me about it again the other day, and I didn’t really want to do it, but he doesn’t have the money to hire a lawyer and its not that I don’t want to see him do well…"

"Its okay," Alex broke in when Teri paused to take a breath. "I just wasn’t expecting to hear you say that, that’s all."

The blonde pushed off of her couch nervously and began to pace back and forth across the expanse of her living room. The short, agitated steps took her from one side to the other, but didn’t do much to alleviate the growing unease she felt brewing in the pit of her stomach.

"I know… I… Look, why don’t we talk about something else? How was your day?" Teri asked awkwardly.

Ignoring the question, plunging forward even as every fiber in her body told her not to, Alex asked quietly, "Did you tell him you were seeing someone?"

Another long sigh drifted across the phone lines, and Alex felt her shoulders begin to tighten with anxiety. "If I’d told him that, then I would have had to explain. I’m not ready for explanations yet, Alex. I thought you understood that."

Taking in the slightly cross words, Alex forced herself to back down. They hadn’t talked about anything, hadn’t declared themselves monogamous or even in a relationship at all, and so she really didn’t have any reason to be questioning the other woman like she was. Any reason, of course, other than the fact that she desperately wanted Teri to march back out to wherever Damon was and let him know in no uncertain terms that she was no longer available. That she was with Alex. That she was happy.

"I know. I’m sorry. I just… I guess I’m just jealous. He has you right there, where he can see you whenever he wants, and I envy him for that. He’s a lucky man, and I wish I were there now instead of him," she admitted, hoping that the explanation would be good enough to cover up her earlier gaffe.

On the other end of the phone line, Teri leaned up against the back of her closed bedroom door, running a weary hand through her hair in exasperation. "There’s nothing for you to be jealous about, Alex," she qualified distractedly, half of her mind focused on the conversation and the other half on Damon downstairs in her living room, undoubtedly growing uneasy and increasingly curious the longer she was gone.

"I didn’t say that I was…" Alex started, then trailed off. "Look, I don’t want to fight with you. What are you doing this weekend?"

"This weekend," Teri asked, a little confused. "Nothing… working."

"So I can call you then?" Alex asked breathlessly, feeling her heart starting to race, the beginnings of a plan forming in her mind.

Teri paused for a few seconds, eyebrows furrowing. Alex sounded vaguely desperate, and she wasn’t sure it was an appealing quality. "Yeah, I should be free."

"Good. Look, sorry about earlier. We’ll talk this weekend though, okay," the blonde replied warmly, now feeling a little more confident. She had a surprise in mind, one that would hopefully make Teri as happy as just the thought of it made her.

"Okay," Teri echoed. After hanging up, she stood for a few seconds, running through the conversation mentally. There was something that tugged at her, but she couldn’t figure it out, and the rustling sounds of Damon moving around downstairs pulled her from her contemplation. Smoothing down her hair and running her hands lightly against the front of her shirt as if to hide evidence of a tryst that had occurred only in her mind, Teri pushed away from the door to head back down the stairs.

XXXXXXXXXX

Alex forced herself to unwrap her fingers from the death-grip she had on the steering wheel of the rented SUV she was driving. Her hastily constructed plan was at its culmination now, and for the first time she started to have some serious doubts about its validity. But, at the very least, she knew Teri was home and she was fairly certain that she was alone, judging by the fact that the only other vehicle parked outside of her home was the one Alex was sitting in, which made the blonde breathe a little easier. If Teri had a conniption over this little visit, then at least there wouldn’t be any witnesses.

She’d desperately wanted to see Teri. It had been weeks since the other woman had been in New York, and Alex found herself increasingly cagey at work. Her mind would drift off, recalling something Teri had said or something the two of them had done, and it would take a moment for her to snap back into the present, to pick up where she’d left off. After the phone call a few days prior, and after having the mental image of Damon thrown into the mix, she’d found it even more difficult to concentrate. She hadn’t met the man, but she’d seen pictures, had uneasily acknowledged his handsome physique and the laughter in Teri’s eyes as she’d pressed against his side to pose for the photo.

There had been family members spilling around in the background of one of the ones she remembered most clearly, and Alex had felt a little pang at that. Damon was, she knew from Teri’s rants, much beloved by her family, and with Teri, family was everything. He’d been welcomed with open arms, had been drawn into the family circle as more than just an extension of Teri, and he’d been missed when the relationship had ended. Missed so much that the family hadn’t completely severed ties with him, which continued to infuriate Teri, though she probably couldn’t say as much now since it appeared that she hadn’t completely severed ties with him either.

Teri hadn’t said anything about introducing Alex to her family. As far as Alex knew, Teri never had any plans of doing so, which meant that she was forever outside of the circle and doomed never to fully be a part of the other woman’s life. She understood, of course, that Teri was hesitant, that she wasn’t all that keen on weathering the fallout that would undoubtedly arise from the revelation of her relationship with Alex, but that didn’t make things any better for the blonde. Indeed, it only heightened her anxiety. While she might not be looking forward to being brought out for public scrutiny, Alex knew that without Teri’s family’s knowledge and blessing, she was never going to be more than a weekend secret. Not that she wanted to push Teri into revealing their relationship, necessarily, but she did want to make herself so indispensable as to make the introduction an inevitable foregone conclusion.

Which did nothing to help abate her nervousness, and so with a shaky breath, Alex reached over, snagging the overnight bag sitting in the passenger’s seat, and pushed open the vehicle’s door. The trip up the sidewalk to Teri’s impressive set of double doors seemed almost impossibly long, but then she was there, looking uneasily at the glowing invitation of the doorbell, and there was nothing more for her to do than ring it. So ring it she did, and then stepped back and took a calming breath, hoping that she’d be received with open arms and not with anger.

She heard the sharp clip of heels on hardwood before the loud crack of bolts being thrown, and seconds later the door creaked open to reveal a clearly stunned Teri.

"Alex?" she asked hesitantly, almost as if she were unsure that the other woman really was standing on her doorstep.

Taking a final deep breath for fortification, Alex stepped forward into the light, a tremulous smile tugging at her lips. "Hi," she replied shyly, feeling a blush crawl up her cheeks. "I thought I’d surprise you."

Teri stepped back, opening the door more fully to allow Alex in, a look of stunned confusion still creasing her features. "Uh, well, I’m surprised," she finally murmured, closing the door behind the other woman softly as Alex stepped into her foyer.

Taking a moment to survey the other woman, eyes catching on the small black overnight bag hanging hesitantly from Alex’s fingers, Teri fought back the urge to lash out. She didn’t like surprises, and even if some part of her was glad to see Alex, the unexpected nature of the visit rankled her.

Noticing Teri’s less than enthusiastic welcome, Alex backed toward the door slowly, stopping only when her back came in contact with the wood. "Maybe I should go. I know I should have called first, but I, well…"

"Wanted to surprise me?" Teri finished deadpan, then shook her head, flashing the other woman a rueful smile as she turned to head back into the living room. "Since you’re here, you might as well stay. Did you fly in? That doesn’t look like your car out there."

Breathing out her relief, Alex followed Teri’s retreating form. "No, I rented it at the airport. I was hoping that I’d be able to remember my way here. And, well, I printed out driving instructions from the internet," the blonde admitted, feeling some of the tension that had gathered in her shoulders start to dissipate. She hadn’t been kicked out yet, which was undoubtedly a good sign.

Kicking off her heels, Teri settled down onto her couch, looking at Alex speculatively. "Five minutes earlier and you would have missed me."

Grinning in commiseration, Alex slid down beside the other woman, making sure that she was close enough to Teri to feel the heat rolling off her body, but not close enough to be touching. She didn’t want to press things too badly. "Rough day at work?"

"Every day is a rough day," Teri said with a sigh, letting her head drop back against the top of the couch. "How’d you manage to get away for the weekend?"

"Oh, I’ll pay for it next week, no doubt," Alex replied with a chuckle, barely able to resist the urge to scoot closer to the other woman, her body almost craving physical contact. She didn’t know what it was about Teri, but she was hooked, was addicted and in no immediate search for a cure.

Letting her head fall slightly to the side, Teri looked at Alex out of the corner of her eye. "Are you here because of Damon?" she asked suddenly, without segue.

The question caught Alex off-guard, and she paused for a moment, scrambling to come up with a decent answer. "Yes and no," she finally said, her tone wary. "I wanted to see you anyway, was dying to see you really, so I probably would have found some way to get down here sometime soon."

"But?" Teri drawled, looking for the part of the explanation that Alex was reluctant to voice.

"But I probably wouldn’t have been on a plane tonight if I hadn’t spoken to you earlier in the week. Not because I was jealous, really," Alex qualified quickly, "but because I didn’t like the way we’d left our conversation. I didn’t want things between us to be strained. I’d overreacted before, and I wanted to make sure that everything was okay. In person, obviously. So yes, it is indirectly because of Damon that I’m here."

"And not because you’re trying to stake some kind of claim?" Teri asked slowly, a hint of reticence in her tone. She wasn’t completely sure she believed Alex’s answer, though she wasn’t really in the mood to push things.

Sighing, Alex let her own head drop back, her pose mirroring Teri’s. "No. I know that we don’t have that kind of relationship… yet. Maybe we never will. I just wanted to see you, and I acted, for the second time since I’ve known you, on the spur of the moment. Now I see why I usually don’t do the acting without thinking thing," she finished, her tone self-deprecating.

"Its… I’m not unhappy that you’re here, Alex. It was a surprise, I’ll give you that, but not necessarily an unpleasant one. I might have questioned your motivations, but I was never not glad to see you," Teri said gently, pulling her head up so that she could focus on Alex’s profile, her eyes taking in the convulsive, rhythmic motion of the other woman’s throat as the blonde swallowed nervously.

Letting her chin drop down to her chest, Alex closed her eyes. "No, I shouldn’t have done it. At the very least, I should have called. To be brutally honest, I should have cleared it with you first. I can’t imagine what you must have thought, looking out to see me standing on your doorstep like that, no warning that I was coming whatsoever."

"Its fine, Alex," Teri reassured, leaning forward so that she hovered dangerously close to Alex. Taking in a deep breath of anticipation, Alex waited for that first touch. Her eyes followed the path of Teri’s hand as it reached out, as it moved over her chest, and she frowned in confusion as the other woman continued the motion past her chest. She heard the click of a phone, and watched with interested as Teri pulled the cordless from its resting place, turning the receiver on with a flick of her thumb.

Teri dialed seven numbers with a few quick movements of her finger, scarcely even needing to look down at the keypad. She listened through four unanswered rings, waited impatiently through an answering machine message until finally it was her turn to speak.

"Bird, its Teri," she said, looking at Alex from under lowered lids, golden eyes glowing with purpose. "Just wanted to let you know that I won’t be able to make it to Sunday dinner this week. Talk to you on Monday. Love you. Bye."

Clicking the phone off decisively, Teri let it fall unheeded to the couch cushion beside her. Standing, she took a few steps toward the stairs, and thus the bedroom, before stopping. Turning, she looked at Alex expectantly, a hint of a smile curving her lips. "You coming?" she asked, a single brow raised in invitation.

Alex merely laughed in reply.

XXXXXXXXXX

Bird knocked once again on Teri’s front door, more than annoyed with her older sister. Sunday dinner was not something one was allowed to miss, especially when she was planning on frying up her famous pork chops, and the short message that she’d received on her answering machine had irked her to no end. No explanation, nothing, just a few quick words to back out of an event that had been firmly in place all of their lives.

"Not coming to my Sunday dinner," she muttered under her breath, looking around Teri’s front steps in agitation. She couldn’t remember where the other woman had left her spare key, and the sore ache in her knuckles from pounding on the door wasn’t doing anything to improve her mood.

The sound of the door being yanked open pulled Bird from her search, and she looked up to catch sight of her extremely rumpled older sister glaring out at her. "What are you doing here?" Teri asked irritably, pulling her robe closed and belting it, having only shrugged into it moments before.

Bird lowered her eyebrows, taking in the wild disarray of her sister’s hair, the dark circles under her eyes. "Finding out what you could be doing that was more important than your family," Bird retorted sharply. "Wondering why it was you’ve decided not to grace us with your presence at dinner today."

Sighing loudly in exasperation, Teri ran a hand through her hair, the move doing little to smooth down the disheveled mass. "Jesus, Bird, its 8:30 in the morning. Go home."

"Not until you tell me why you’re not coming," Bird said, pushing her way past Teri and into the other woman’s foyer.

Looking worriedly up the stairs, sincerely hoping that her sister’s raised voice wouldn’t wake Alex since the banging on the door hadn’t, Teri whispered fiercely, "None of your business. Go home, Bird."

"Not until…" Bird started, then trailed off, her eyes following Teri’s up the stairs. "Who’s here? That’s what it is, isn’t it, Teri. You’ve got somebody here. Who is it? Damon?"

And much to Teri’s dismay, Bird was sprinting up the stairs, heading down the hall to her bedroom before the other woman could even move. She caught up with her younger sister, but not until the door to the bedroom had been flung wide open.

"Bird, no," she shouted to no avail, her words coming far too late.

For a moment Bird merely stood, mouth open wide in shock. Then, she screeched, turning round eyes Teri’s way. The noise roused the still sleeping Alex, and she sat up in confusion, the sheet that had barely been covering her falling to puddle at her waist, baring her gloriously naked upper torso.

"Teri?" she asked with no little confusion, eyes squinting as she tried to make out what was going on. Unable to do so, she fumbled around on the bedside table for her glasses, slipping them on only to see her lover looking at her with utter dismay and a stranger staring at her in shock. Reaching down quickly for the sheet, Alex pulled it up, wrapping it firmly around her chest.

"There’s a white woman in your bed," Bird nearly screamed, pointing her finger in Alex’s direction as if to alert Teri to a fact of which she’d been previously unaware.

Cringing, bringing a hand up to her forehead to ward off the headache she could already feel brewing, Teri muttered, "Bird, lets just go downstairs."

"But Teri," Bird sputtered, still pointing, "there’s a…"

"I KNOW," Teri snapped, reaching out to grab her younger sister’s arm. Giving the limb a sharp tug, she pulled Bird out of the door way, not stopping until she’d managed to drag the other woman back down the stairs.

Once there, Bird jerked her arm free in a fierce movement. Planting both hands on her hips, she turned to face Teri, her jaw stiff with anger. "Just what the hell’s going on here?" she asked indignantly.

Sighing, Teri closed her eyes, searching frantically for any safe explanation. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t any way to explain away what Bird had seen, and so instead she settled for, "Its none of your business, Bird."

"None of my business?" Bird shot back, brows raising in outrage. "Just how is this none of my business? I come over to check on you, to make sure that everything’s alright, and I find… I find… that?"

"Could you keep your voice down?" Teri hissed, stepping closer to her sister. For a moment, she entertained the fantasy that she was only having a nightmare, that at any moment she was going to awaken to find that this wasn’t real. Unfortunately, her brain knew better, refusing to allow her to escape the inevitability of the confrontation in which she was embroiled.

"Are you… are you gay?" Bird asked, aghast. It quite frankly baffled her, and she took an unconscious step backward, putting a little space between herself and her older sister.

Teri noticed the move and frowned. "No, of course not. It just… I’m just…"

"Just what?" Bird prodded, crossing her arms over her chest resolutely, expression conveying that she was anxiously awaiting an answer.

Throwing her hands up in frustration, unable to define for herself just what her relationship with Alex was, much less put it into words, Teri growled, "I don’t know. Just please, Bird, go away."

"Don’t think you’re going to get out of this," Bird warned, shifting uncomfortably on her feet. "Just you wait until Maxine finds out."

"Because you couldn’t possibly keep this to yourself," Teri snapped sarcastically, fighting back the urge to hit something.

Bird looked at her older sister assessingly before stepping forward and muttering, "You need to figure out what the hell is going on here and let us know, Teri."

"Will you just go now?" Teri said wearily, motioning to the still open door. With one last huff, Bird turned, marching outside and slamming the door behind her. For a second, Teri remained where she was, trying to calm the nausea roiling through her stomach. Things had suddenly gotten so very bad, and in so very many ways.

Trudging wearily up the stairs, she pushed her way into the bedroom, not at all surprised to see Alex dressed. Catching the look of concern and confusion being sent her way, Teri flopped down onto the bed, pulling a pillow over her eyes.

"Just go, Alex," she muttered, hearing the rustle of cloth that let her know the other woman was approaching.

"But…" Alex started to protest, only to be cut off by the slash of a fine boned hand.

"Go," Teri repeated wearily.

Hovering uncertainly over the bed, Alex took in her lover’s stiff form. After a long moment, she let out a long sigh, then moved silently to gather her things. She cast one final glance back at Teri’s unmoving form before slipping soundlessly out of the room.

XXXXXXXXXX

Alex was growing frantic. After the debacle of two weeks prior, she certainly wasn’t going to pop in on Teri unannounced again, but she wasn’t sure that she could go another day without hearing the other woman’s voice. Her repeated phone calls since that day had received no answer, and none of the messages that she’d left had gotten a reply. She’d tried everything, from Teri’s home to Teri’s work, but to no avail and the black-out was driving her insane. She couldn’t sleep, concentrating on work was becoming hellishly difficult, and Alex knew that if something didn’t happen soon, she’d either get fired or be committed.

To make matters worse, she had the sinking suspicion that Abbie Carmichael was standing in her doorway, and she wasn’t at all certain that she had the mental reserves to deal with the other woman, tentative détente or not.

Swinging her gaze over confirmed her hunch, and with a sigh Alex pushed her glasses up on top of her head, pinching the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger.

"Can I help you?" she asked tiredly, absently considering provoking a verbal battle just for the relief of tension it would garner.

Abbie took a step forward and then stopped, tilting her head to the side, dark brown eyes looking at Alex assessingly. "You look like hell," she said finally, the rough, low tone of her voice sliding across the space between then.

Pulling her hand away from her forehead, Alex shot Abbie a venomous look. "Thanks. Now, if that’s all, I’ve got work to do."

"Hey," Abbie protested, holding her hands up in a gesture of surrender, "no offense. Just, you might want to think about taking a break, that’s all."

"As expert as I have no doubt your opinion is, I’m afraid I don’t have time to chit-chat about the balance of physical, spiritual and mental well-being. Did you need something or did you come up here simply to annoy me?" Alex snapped, feeling the migraine that had been brewing all morning explode into a full-blown burst of pain.

Abbie’s eyes narrowed as she looked at the other woman. She’d gone up to see Alex with the intention of inviting the other woman to an early dinner in an effort to not only strengthen their burgeoning peace but also to get to know her better, but with the reception she was getting, Abbie was quite sure that she’d as soon shoot Alex as look at her. "Have a good day, Councilor," she said stiffly, backing out of the other woman’s office.

Alex watched the other woman’s retreating form for a second before letting loose a long sigh. She had handled that badly, and would undoubtedly have to apologize for it later, but she just didn’t have the desire to do so at the moment. Dealing with Teri was enough without having to add the often infuriating Abbie Carmichael and her potentially hurt feelings to the list.

The sharp trilling of her cell phone nearly sent Alex flying out of her seat, and after a second’s delay, she hurriedly pulled open her desk drawer, shoving papers to the side as she searched for it. Finally grabbing hold of it on the third ring, she took a second to check the caller ID before flicking it on, one single breathless word making its way past her lips.

"Teri?"

There was a slight pause, and Alex thought for a moment that she’d been mistaken, that the numbers that had looked so familiar to her in the quick glance she’d spared to the digital display were perhaps not the ones she’d been so looking forward to seeing, but after a moment, she was rewarded.

"Uh, Alex?" Teri asked guardedly, and Alex forced herself to calm down.

"Its me. I’ve been trying to get in touch with you," Alex said, struggling to keep any hints of accusation out of her tone. She didn’t want to find herself in the midst of an argument before she even heard what explanation Teri would offer for the first-rate impression of a brush off she’d been giving.

There was another pause, and then, "I know. Alex… I’ve… well, I’ve got something to tell you."

Alex felt her heart stop beating for a moment. Words like those, spoken in that tone, could never portend anything good. "Teri…" she started weakly, wanting to get a head-start on refuting anything the other woman might be going to say.

"I’m seeing Damon again," Teri said in a rush, breaking into Alex’s fledgling attempt. "I know you were looking for something more from me, and I’m sorry if I hurt you, but you and I… we’re not going to work out. We were never going to work out."

Alex forced herself to take a few deep, calming breaths, then spoke, trying to ignore the sting of tears burning her eyes. "Its because of your family, isn’t it? Its not because of me and its not because you’re back with Damon. Its because you’re afraid, and because they don’t understand."

This time when Teri spoke, there was a hint of anger coating her words. "Look Alex, I had fun and you’re a great person and I’m glad I got to know you, but you were always more serious about that thing between us than I was. You know Damon and I have a history. He came over last week to finish up that project we were working on and, well… things just happened."

Alex inhaled sharply, a fleeting pain shooting through her chest at the words. "You fucked him?" she asked in a strangled voice, the harsh words sounding foreign rolling off of her tongue.

"That’s none of your business," Teri shot back sharply.

Pushing back a rising tide of nausea, Alex said slowly, "That thing between us was a relationship. You know it and I know it, even if you don’t want to admit it. And, maybe I was more invested in it than you were, but then again, I’d never lied to you about that. If it’ll make you happy, then go back to Damon with my best wishes for a happy life together, but if you’re only doing this because you’re afraid of what people might think about you, then its probably for the best anyway."

"Don’t pull that sanctimonious shit with me, Alex Cabot. ‘This is Teri Joseph, a good friend and colleague of mine from Chicago’," Teri said mockingly, and Alex cringed. "You’ve got no right and no room to criticize me. Its over Alex. I don’t want to hear from you, I don’t want to stay friends, I don’t want anything. You understand?"

"I understand," Alex growled, then hung up, hurling her cell phone against the opposite wall with all of the force she could muster. She watched with detached satisfaction as it exploded into a shower of little pieces before pushing herself up out of her chair and making her way quickly across the room.

Hidden inside one of her cabinets was a small, recessed refrigerator, one of the perks of having plenty of money to spare, and with a sigh Alex pulled out the bottle of Grey Goose that she kept in the freezer compartment. Eschewing the tonic component of her usual vodka tonic, she pulled a chilled tumbler out, and splashed a hefty amount of the liquor into the glass. After a few seconds of thought, she tipped the bottle over again. Then, with a satisfied nod of the head, she walked over to the door and shut it firmly before settling in behind her desk once more, sitting the nearly full bottle down beside her.

XXXXXXXXXX

Abbie had returned to her office to stew for a full two hours after her confrontation with Alex. She was trying, she really was, but the attitude that she’d received that afternoon had perhaps been the last straw in her abortive attempt to woo the blonde ADA. Not that she’d gotten far in her seduction, since she was fairly certain that Alex was still blissfully unaware that Abbie was even interested in her, but with the hassle that she’d had to go through when dealing with the other woman thusfar, Abbie had almost decided that it was entirely too much of an effort. So, with that in mind, she stalked down to the elevator, poking the up button fiercely five times for good measure, and determined that she was going to give Alex Cabot a piece of her mind. She wasn’t quite sure what, exactly, that would entail yet, but she’d had plenty of time to work herself up into quite a state, and there was no need for all of that excess anger and energy to go to waste.

It didn’t take the elevator long to respond to her call, no doubt hastened along by some sort of primordial communication between the animate and inanimate that let it know, somehow, that it was in the machine’s best interest to be prompt. A short trip up, and Abbie found herself on Alex’s floor, stalking down the slightly dingy corridor toward the other woman’s office. So caught up in her righteous indignation was she that Abbie didn’t even notice that Alex’s door was shut until she’d pushed her way inside the other woman’s office, where she came to a dead stop.

There was a half empty bottle of vodka sitting on the edge of Alex’s desk, and the woman herself was slumped over, forehead balanced precariously on a pile of papers, one hand curled loosely around an empty tumbler.

"Alex?" Abbie asked, too shocked to say anything else.

The blonde raised her head wearily, blinking rapidly several times before focusing hazy eyes on Abbie. "What are you doing here?" she slurred, and Abbie looked around involuntarily, making sure that she was, indeed, in the right office.

"I…" Abbie trailed off, not about to waste her full head of steam on a woman too drunk to remember the verbal lashing she would have received. "What the hell are you doing," she said instead, easing over to shut the door. She wasn’t at all sure what was going on, but was fairly certain that Alex wouldn’t appreciate having an audience.

The question earned a sniffle, and Abbie’s alarm grew exponentially. "She left me," Alex said woefully. "Went back to her boyfriend."

Eyes narrowing, Abbie’s mind worked to sort through the scant information she’d just been handed. "The woman you were with at the station that time?" she asked, carefully inching closer until she realized just how stupid the maneuver was. It wasn’t as if she were facing an uncaged lion, so with a sigh of frustration over her own antics, she marched over to the side of Alex’s desk, where she stopped, arms crossed over her chest as she surveyed the woman barely sitting before her.

"Teri," Alex said wistfully, looking at Abbie with liquid blue eyes. "I think I was in love with her."

The sentence was followed by the second sniff of the evening, and Abbie made a snap decision. "Well, enough of the sniveling. Come on, lets get you home."

Because, she reasoned, even if she was royally pissed off at Alex, she wasn’t about to leave her there in that state if for no other reason than because she’d hate to be found in that condition where the circumstances reversed.

"I don’t want to go home," Alex said recalcitrantly, crossing her arms over her chest in a mirror pose of Abbie’s stance. "I have work I have to finish."

Abbie snorted at that, taking in the other woman’s obviously extremely inebriated state. "Uh-huh, I’m sure you do. Unfortunately, you don’t really get a say in this. We’re taking you home, no arguments allowed."

"I don’t have to listen to you, Abbie Carmichael," Alex said decisively, "even if everybody else does think that you’re the best lawyer around here. I’m a good lawyer too, and there’s absolutely nothing you can teach me."

Abbie paused for a second, shaking her head at the strange turn the conversation had taken. Drunken individuals had the unfortunate habit of veering away from viable topics, though, which was something she knew well. Besides, what was that old saying? In vino veritas…

"You think so, do you?" she asked playfully, thoroughly enjoying the bloom of anger that spread across Alex’s cheeks at the taunting words.

"I know so. I graduated summa… summa… summa cum laude," Alex finally managed to say, grinning at Abbie triumphantly.

Smiling indulgently, the brunette said, "Is that so? I don’t doubt that you’ve got brains, but it takes more than that to be a good lawyer, don’t you think?"

Now scowling, Alex pushed herself out of her chair. Advancing on Abbie, she was completely unaware of the fact that the other woman was backing away, leading her through the quickly opened doorway and down the hall. "You always think you’re better than everyone else around here," Alex sneered, the vodka having completely obliterated the usually rock solid walls of her composure. "Taking over my cases, walking around like… hey, where’re we going?"

Alex broke off, realizing finally that she was in the elevator. As it started to move, she swayed dangerously, and Abbie reached over just in time to keep the blonde from slumping to the floor.

"I don’t feel so good," Alex mumbled finally. "Why couldn’t you just have left me alone? All I wanted to do was be alone, by myself, all alone in my office without you or anyone else around."

Abbie chuckled, wrapping an arm around Alex’s waist. She tried not to think about how good it felt to have the other woman leaning on her like she was, the warm curves of the blonde’s body melding with her own, but it was hard. And, she reasoned, Alex was far too drunk to realize that Abbie was enjoying the situation, so she finally gave into her desire.

Steering the blonde out the front door and quickly hailing a cab, Abbie breathed a sigh of relief that they hadn’t bumped into anyone while they were leaving. Then again, it was Friday evening, and most anyone with anything resembling a life outside of the office was out living it, which might account for why she’d still been there. But, in her defense, she had been on her way out, resolute that dealing with Alex was the last thing she was going to do before fleeing for the comfort of her apartment. Not that she wasn’t taking her work with her, and as she slid Alex into the cab, Abbie had to shift around the satchel she’d draped over one shoulder to fit all of them comfortably in the back seat.

"Alex, where do you…" Abbie started to ask before trailing off. Alex had her face turned so that she was facing out the other window, but from the loll of her head, Abbie could only guess that she wasn’t entirely conscious. So, with a sigh she gave the cabbie her own address, then leaned back to enjoy the ride.

By the time they’d reached her apartment, Alex had started to snore softly, and it took a healthy dose of persuasion mixed with virulent curses and threats to pry her out of the taxi. Finally, though, Abbie managed it, and after a bit of a struggle, steered the blonde into her apartment building.

Alex turned green on the elevator ride up, but thankfully that was all. By the time Abbie managed to hustle her into her apartment, Alex had apparently regained enough sense to know that something was amiss, because she slumped down onto Abbie’s couch and regarded the other woman with suspicion.

"What’re we doing here?" she asked guardedly, watching through hooded lids as Abbie shed her satchel, as she tossed her keys onto a countertop and kicked off her heels.

Drawing her shoulders back, letting loose a satisfied sigh as the tightened vertebra in the middle of her back popped and relaxed, she surveyed the blonde warily. "I don’t know where you live," was the answer she finally decided on, but by the increasingly grumpy look on Alex’s face, she imagined that the other woman found the explanation lacking.

"So you brought me to your house?" Alex asked, tilting her head to the side. She was having an extremely difficult time concentrating, and her eyelids felt abnormally heavy. However, she felt it was of supreme importance to clear up her situation before giving into the lethargy of sleep she could feel beckoning her.

Running her tongue along her upper lip in an attempt not to smirk, Abbie nodded. "That I did. Welcome. I’ll give you the tour later."

The words struck a chord in Alex, bringing to mind her first night with Teri, and just how exactly her ‘tour’ of Chicago had ended. So, with that in mind, she looked up at Abbie and said gravely, "I’m not going to sleep with you."

Thrown completely off track by the apparent non sequiter, Abbie could only gape for a few seconds before she managed to recover. "Is that so?" she drawled.

Alex nodded decisively. "You’re an attractive woman, I’ll give you that, and if you weren’t such a bitch then maybe, but no… Not gonna do it."

"So you find me attractive?" Abbie echoed shrewdly, one brow cocked.

Alex sighed. "You deliberately miscon… mis… misconstrued what I said."

"Just answer the question. Do you?" Abbie pushed, completely unconcerned with the fact that she was manipulating an inebriated woman.

Alex looked up crossly, then sighed once again. "Yes. And, like I said, I’m not going to sleep with you, but I am going to bed."

The weight of her eyelids had grown nearly unbearable, and with a groan she pushed up off the couch, stumbling out of the living room in what she assumed to be the general direction of the bedroom. Abbie watched her for a moment before following, stepping over the various items of clothing that Alex had shed on her way. By the time she caught up with the other woman, Alex was digging through one of her drawers in search of something to wear, naked save for a pair of pale blue cotton panties.

Abbie watched with amusement as the other woman slipped into one of her favorite tee shirts before flopping down on the unmade bed. Seconds later, Alex was sound asleep, and Abbie left her there, tracing the line of discarded clothing back into the living room. Folding the garments, she brought them back to her room before depositing them in a chair, and after staring at the sleeping woman for a few seconds, she headed back into the living room, working her way methodically through the pile of papers that she’d brought home for perusal. Noticing finally the extreme lateness of the hour, she decided that sleep would probably be the best thing for her to do as well. So, she headed back into her bedroom, careful not to disrupt Alex even though she was relatively certain that the other woman would be able to sleep through nearly anything in her state, and pulled out a tee-shirt for herself. After taking a few minutes to wash her face and brush her teeth, she made her way back out to the living room, feet hanging off the end of the couch as she drifted off into a fitful sleep.

Continue to Part 3

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