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 5

Alex awoke with a start, her body intensely aware of the fact that she wasn�t at home. She�d never slept well in foreign beds, and Abbie�s wasn�t an exception. Some part of her still sleep addled brain wondered if her body was just so accustomed to her mattress that it rebelled at the notion of sleeping on any other, and part of her wondered if there was some kind of treatment for that. Because really, it could get inconvenient when one had to travel. Or, for instance, when one spent the night at one�s girlfriend�s house.

Which brought to mind the night before, and Alex smiled broadly. Rolling over, expecting to see Abbie fast asleep on the other side of the bed, she was more than surprised to find herself alone. A quick glance out the window told her it was still dark, and so after listening intently for a few seconds, trying to discern whether or not Abbie was simply in the bathroom or gone to get something to drink, Alex rolled out of bed. She covered her eyes as she flicked on a bedside lamp, slowly drawing the protective limb away as she became accustomed to the brightness, and looked around the room. Not that she expected to see Abbie huddled in the corner or anything of the like, but she did it nonetheless.

Another glance at Abbie�s side of the bed turned up no useful information. The covers were mussed, but then again, they had every right to be. Though Abbie wasn�t in sight, on another visual sweep, Alex�s eye caught on the edge of a silver frame resting on a dresser. Padding across the room, the carpet tickling the bottoms of her bare feet, she picked it up, smiling indulgently.

It was a picture of an obviously younger Abbie, all teeth and thin, coltish limbs, standing with what she could only assume was her family. The resemblance was certainly there, a mixture of both of the parents grinning out at her, two dark haired siblings smiling widely, and Alex felt a rush of warmth flow over her. She�d never had that, really. Never had parents who posed for an impromptu picture, who slung their arms around her shoulders and grinned down at her. Not that Abbie had it anymore, of course, but at the very least she�d had it once.

Sitting the photo down, she scooped up Abbie�s tee shirt from the floor, sliding it over her head before making her way out of the bedroom and down the hall. A soft light from the living room drew her, and as she entered she found her wandering lover. Abbie was draped across the couch, reading glasses pushed up on top of her head, a sheaf of papers spilling out of her lap and onto the floor. Grinning indulgently, Alex plucked the glasses from their perch and tugged away the papers, leaving them in a haphazard pile on the coffee table. Moving so she was straddling Abbie�s long, outstretched legs, she bent down until she was only inches away from the other woman�s face, her eyes even with Abbie�s still closed lids. Reaching down, she slowly slipped the belt of the robe Abbie was wearing free, sliding her hands under the material and it off of the other woman�s shoulders, leaving her gloriously bare.

Abbie huffed and shifted a little, but didn�t awaken, and with a mischievous smile in place, Alex decided to continue her play. So, she slid her hands down from Abbie�s shoulders to her breasts, one finger tracing a line past her collarbone all the way to the full underside of the twin globes, where she scratched lightly. There was another restless move, another sleepy noise of confusion, and so she deciding to step things up, Alex sucked first one, and then the other, of her forefingers into her mouth, bring both to Abbie�s nipples, painting the flesh there with her saliva. The move caused chill bumps, which she exacerbated by blowing a stream of cool air across the skin until each was a hard little nub. That brought one of Abbie�s hands up to her belly, obviously an asleep attempt to discover the origin of the stimulus that didn�t quite make it, and Alex had to stifle a laugh.

Deciding that she�d managed to set things up perfectly, she once again reached forward, this time to capture an erect nipple between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Starting with a light pressure, she increased her grip until a low moan erupted past Abbie�s lips, followed shortly thereafter by the startled, rapid blink of eyelids as the other woman finally awoke.

"Alex?" she rasped, confused and disoriented, her voice sleep rough.

"You were expecting someone else?" the blonde teased, settling down so that she was resting on Abbie�s thighs, her knees digging into soft couch cushions.

Shaking her head as if to clear it, Abbie was silent for a moment, , still not completely comprehending what was happening. She wasn�t a morning person, or a middle of the night person if that was when she happened to be awakened, and so she merely blinked in confusion, wondering vaguely if she was still dreaming. "Uh, no. Not anyone else," she finally managed, a large indrawn breath automatically turning into a yawn.

"Why�d you come in here?" Alex asked curiously, her nails scratching a light pattern against the flat expanse of Abbie�s belly.

"Couldn�t sleep," Abbie said lazily, the relaxing scratch doing little to sharpen her sleep dulled mind.

Alex chuckled, remembering the scene that she�d found minutes earlier. "Didn�t look like you were having any trouble sleeping a minute ago," she mock accused, earning her a bit of a glare.

"Yeah, hey� what happened to my robe?" Abbie asked with confusion, finally noticing her virtually nude situation.

Shooting the other woman a look that said the answer to that question should be clearly evident, Alex drawled, "It must have slipped off."

"Slipped off?" Abbie echoed, brow furrowing. She hated the blanket of inertia coating her brain and cursed herself for not catching on to something she apparently should be if Alex�s expression was any indication.

Alex sighed. Maybe she�d have fared better with a still asleep Abbie. The awake version didn�t appear to have noticed their position, much less taken advantage of it, and she was beginning to get a little unsettled by that fact. "Abbie, should I just let you go back to sleep?" she finally asked, moving to stand.

Long fingers instantly encircled her waist, pulling her back down as Abbie smiled lazily, dark, half-lidded eyes twinkling. "No need for you to go anywhere just yet," she rasped.

The move drew the robe back up to Abbie�s shoulders, and Alex frowned slightly. She�d been quite appreciative of the view before, though she imagined there was something to be said for the allure of the unseen as well. The dim light mixed with the shadows created by the fabric of the robe to paint Abbie�s torso in gray and black, with flashes of vibrant flesh peeking through. Entranced by the contrast, Alex reached forward, the fingers of one hand tracing an absent pattern over the other woman�s skin. "So, you finally noticed, hmm?" she nearly purred, the sensual tone sneaking up on her without warning.

"Noticed what?" Abbie asked lethargically, her body straining to not arch into the blonde�s touch.

Stopping a moment, looking up to throw the brunette a smirk, Alex clarified, "Noticed that I wasn�t just an alarm clock."

"Oh, you can certainly have the position if you want it," Abbie chuckled, arching a brow. "I�ll throw away the old one. I can be a one alarm clock household."

Unable to help it, Alex snorted. "As appealing as that proposition is, I�m afraid I�ll have to pass."

"Why?" Abbie nearly groaned as Alex�s fingers started to inch downward, ghosting over her lower abdomen. "Is there a more appealing proposition on the table?"

Canting her head to the side, looking at Abbie speculatively, Alex murmured, "Not yet, but I�m open to entertaining negotiations. What are you willing to offer?"

"Hmm," Abbie mused, raking short nails up Alex�s bare legs, drawing them down her inner thighs and then lightly scratching her way back up. "Let me see� is there anything I have that you want?"

Shaking her head, trying to suppress the shudder tracing its way down her spine, Alex said, "Sorry, Councilor. I�m not giving anything away. You�ll just have to make sure the deal is sweet enough for me to find it irresistible."

In reply, Abbie let one hand slide down from Alex�s sternum to cover her mound, her middle finger sliding easily into the wetness of her folds. Stroking the finger back and forth lightly even as she gazed contemplatively at the blonde, Abbie fought against the smile tugging at her lips. "You know I don�t like to proceed without all of the facts," she said, her voice low, eyes lighting from within as Alex began to move slightly, pressing down against Abbie�s elusive finger.

"Abbie, if you don�t stop teasing me, I won�t be responsible for my actions," Alex groaned, leaning forward to brace an outstretched hand against the back of the couch.

Grinning, Abbie said innocently, "Does that mean no more verbal foreplay?"

"Oh, you can talk as much as you want, just so long as you touch me," Alex said seriously, but then made all speech impossible as she leaned forward, her tongue swiping across the seam of Abbie�s lips, asking for entrance.

And so, Abbie didn�t talk. What she did do was slide three fingers deep into Alex, watching with a combination of fierce arousal and fascination as the other woman rode her hand into orgasm, head snapping back at the first wave of climax, sending her hair flying behind her in a golden arch.

Alex had collapsed against Abbie�s chest, one hand immediately falling to the junction between the brunette�s thighs, quick fingers bringing about a hasty climax. For a long moment they remained that way, Alex�s fingers still surrounded by Abbie�s warmth, her face pressed against the other woman�s rapidly heaving chest, her body curled into a sanguine near-ball. And, as comfortable as the position was, she considered staying there, not even bothering to move back to the bed. But, with a silent groan, she realized that the bed would be better, and that she�d undoubtedly be much happier there, so Alex pushed away, a smile creasing her features as she caught sight of the look of absolute contentment on Abbie�s face.

"Come back to bed," the blonde husked, tilting her head to the side.

For a moment, Abbie looked torn. Then, softly, she said, "You go ahead. I�ll be there in a little while. I want to clean up this mess."

"Abbie," Alex cajoled, "I�m sure it can wait until morning."

"It won�t take me long," Abbie promised, eyes dropping. "You go on."

With a sigh, Alex gave up the fight, pushing herself off Abbie�s lap and to her feet, smoothing down the tee shirt she had just realized she was still wearing. Knowing Abbie was watching, she added just enough sway to her hips to be enticing but not enough to be blatant, hoping that the invitation would lure the other woman to follow more quickly. Once in the bedroom, she shucked off the shirt and slid under the covers, body tense as she waited for the noises that would herald the impending arrival of the other woman.

They never came.

XXXXXXXXXX

Teri rolled over with a sigh, focusing bleary eyes on the alarm clock. It was nearly 4:00 in the morning, and she�d been tossing and turning all night, sleep nowhere in sight and body restlessly keyed up. Not that her nocturnal battle for slumber had bothered Damon, who was still sleeping soundly, one long arm hanging off the side of the bed, the other stretched out about his head. He was laying on his stomach, face pressed into the pillow and turned toward Teri, providing her with a perfect view of his profile. A profile that she saw every time she turned to face him. Long, straight nose perched above full lips, high cheekbones that would have done a model proud, gently arched brows. He was a pretty man, she�d give him that.

And, a sexy one, a man who used to embody everything she thought she�d wanted. One who had wrecked her life, or so she thought, in one fell swoop. A man who had battered her self-image, who had made a mistake she thought she�d never forgive.

He�d begged for forgiveness though, on countless occasions. He�d hung around, never completely disappearing from her life, always a favorite of her often far too outspoken family. They�d turned to him for help, turned to him when they couldn�t get through to her, and despite their past, he�d come to speak with her, hoping that she�d listen because he cared. Sometimes she had listened, even though she never would admit it, and some part of her had wanted to just fall back into the life they�d shared, one where she�d felt comfort and security in knowing that he was there, his big, solid form available for shelter whenever she needed it. Not that she�d ever really confess she liked to have that in her life. Teri was a proud woman, a self-sufficient woman, a woman who certainly didn�t need a man to complete her life.

All the same, though, it got tiring being so damned independent all the time. She was always fighting. On the job, with people who refused to recognize her worth, and then, finally, in her personal life. Fighting against Damon and fighting against her family, all of whom wanted things from her that she wasn�t sure she could give.

And then she�d met Alex. She�d felt that same sense of security with her, and for a short time, she�d actually begun to wonder if she could make a go of a relationship with the woman. Sure, there were a lot of things standing in their way. Distance, her own confusion, her own fear� but she�d worked through difficult things before and Teri had no doubt that she could do so again.

But then Bird had found them, and she�d realized in that one instant, when all of the other woman�s disapproval had been written clearly across her face, that she just couldn�t deal with it. Couldn�t add one more battle to the list she was already fighting. So, she�d sent Alex packing, had decided that things had to end. She�d ignored her phone calls, had wondered if simply phasing her way out of the other woman�s life through non-contact would be the best way to go about things.

Of course, her family had taken that exact moment to decide that they would support her. They wouldn�t necessarily understand what she was doing, wouldn�t say that they agreed with it, but they would support her. They�d meet this Alex and see what she was like, would make her feel as welcome as they could, and if it made Teri happy then that was all that mattered.

Which, in so very many ways, was completely horrible. It meant that Teri had to face up to things. She couldn�t hide behind the shield of her family�s disapproval anymore, explaining her actions away to herself as an effort to keep familial harmony. Now she had no one but herself and her own thoughts and feelings and fears and desires to work with, and she had to make a decision.

So, she�d taken the easy way out. She�d called and said good-bye and worked up enough righteous anger to assure herself that it had been the right choice. That it hadn�t been unfair of her to lie about getting back with Damon rather than tell the truth, tell Alex that the problem was in her own mind.

She�d felt horrible afterward. So horrible, in fact, that she�d turned to the one person who�d always said he wanted her, even after he�d broken her heart. And so, she�d ended up with Damon back in her life and in her bed, a place where he still was even though things weren�t, and probably would never be, the same.

She�d given in to temptation once, had called Alex on impulse, her mind having formulated the wild idea that she could have them both. There would be Damon, someone she could have on her arm, someone who wouldn�t raise doubts and suspicions and disrupt the even keel of her perfectly normal life. Someone perfectly acceptable. Then, she�d have Alex. Alex could be a secret, could be her glorious, delightful secret, and everything that she realized she couldn�t get from Damon any more, Alex would be there to provide.

Only, things hadn�t quite worked out that way. Alex hadn�t been at all happy with that particular idea. In fact, she�d seemed incensed, had, in essence, banished Teri from her life, closing that particular avenue to her forever.

That had been a dark, dark day.

Sighing, rolling over once more, her eyes focusing on barely parted lips and the curve of strong shoulders, Teri felt a wave of unhappiness roll over her.

Like the maxim said, she�d made her bed. Now she�d lie in it, sleep or no sleep.

XXXXXXXXXX

Detective Olivia Benson was trained to notice things. She�d been trained by the police academy and by years on the street, and now it seemed almost like a preternatural ability. She could sense when things were off, when they were just not like they were supposed to be.

Things were definitely off.

"What�s up, partner?" Eliot Stabler asked, sliding into his chair. Leaning back with a tired sigh, he waited. And waited and waited, finally realizing that Olivia hadn�t even heard his question.

"Hello," he called, rapping his knuckles on the desktop. "Earth to Olivia. What�s got you so out of it?"

Finally snapping back into reality, Olivia looked at her partner, a slight frown tugging at her features. "Look at that," she said, a minute movement of her head drawing his attention to the two women standing in the corner. It was Carmichael and Cabot, engaged in what appeared to be yet another intense discussion and no doubt prelude to an argument.

"Yeah, what about it? Those two are always at each other�s throats," he said dismissively, shrugging his shoulders.

"That�s just it," Olivia murmured. "They�re not arguing. Or, maybe they are, but not like they used to. Don�t you see the difference?" she asked, somewhat incredulously. It was there, written as clearly as could be in the women�s postures. They were standing close to one another, heads bowed together as they whispered intently, and even as she watched, Alex reached up to wrap her fingers around Abbie�s forearm. There had never been touching in the past, and there had never been that layer of comfort between them, the one that allowed them to infiltrate the other�s personal space without raising hackles. There had never been that intensity before either, and Olivia struggled to put all the clues together.

"I think its time for both of us to go home," Eliot said with some amusement. "You�re so tired you�re seeing things."

Pushing away from her desk with an exasperated sigh, Olivia said, "Maybe, but I don�t think so. There�s something different there."

"Maybe its just the calm before the storm," Eliot said breezily, tossing Olivia her coat. "Think we ought to get out of here before it hits?"

Shrugging into the garment, Olivia said softly, "You go ahead. I�m going to stick around for a few more minutes."

In the corner, completely unaware of the unwanted attention they�d drawn, Alex said fiercely, "Go home Abbie. Look at you. You�re exhausted. You�re not sleeping. Get some rest� please."

Of course, she knew exactly why the other woman wasn�t sleeping. Not because of their newfound intimacies, though she wished she could say that was the cause. Or, maybe it was because of the physical relationship that existed between them. Physical as in sex only, because Alex had yet to awaken in Abbie�s arms. If they got together at her house, then Abbie would roll away minutes after they�d finished making love, tugging on her clothes and muttering an excuse about work the next day. If they were at Abbie�s place, then Alex would unerringly awaken in the middle of the night to find the other woman gone, either in the living room doing work or uncomfortably asleep on the couch. Never with her though, and the one time she�d actually brought it up, Abbie had answered with a terse, "I don�t sleep well with other people."

Not that she slept well anywhere else. The dark circles under her eyes could attest to that, and Alex had ruefully acknowledged that she was almost, quite literally, driving her lover to the point of exhaustion. Not in any pleasurable way, of course, but driving her nonetheless.

She certainly wouldn�t have minded if the exhaustion had been borne of long nights spent soaking the sheets, but that wasn�t the case. Oh, they certainly had an active sex life, and Abbie was a fierce, determined and experienced lover, but the complications there were numerous. Half of the time they were together, Alex would find herself on the receiving end of the other woman�s intensely focused attention, but when she tried to turn the tables, Abbie would tell her no or turn away or just not be there mentally. Each time she moved to penetrate her lover, something that she was becoming increasingly fixated on doing, Abbie would stiffen up, would pull her hand away, an angry scowl on her face. It was driving Alex insane. She didn�t know the rules to their game, and so she often felt lost, hopeless, convinced that she would never be able to do things right. That she�d never be able to please Abbie. The feeling was beyond horrible.

"You need the help, Alex," Abbie rasped, dark eyes blazing. "If I don�t stay here, you won�t get home until well after midnight. Why won�t you just let me�"

"Because I can handle this, Abbie," Alex hissed, then took a deep breath, forcing herself to calm down. "Look, I know that you�re just doing this because you want to make things easier for me, but its certainly not going to do me any good if I spent the whole time worrying about you. Come on, Abbie, you�re dead on your feet. You shouldn�t be here. Besides, with me at work, you�ll at least actually be able to sleep in your own bed."

The last part was said with a little more heat, anger and bitterness than she�d meant, and Alex knew from the somewhat hurt look in Abbie�s eyes that the barb had hit home. She hadn�t meant to do it though, and bringing her hand to her head, Alex tried to massage away some of the nervous tension tightening at her temples.

"Alex," Abbie said starkly, face pale, "I� You know I� It�"

Laying her hand lightly on Abbie�s forearm, stopping the painful attempt at a sentence, Alex sighed. "I�m sorry, Abbie. Just please, go home. That�s all I ask."

Dark eyes still wounded, Abbie nodded. "I didn�t mean� I�m sorry, Alex. I�ll go," she said awkwardly, cursing internally.

"Good," Alex said with relief, stopping herself just moments before instinctively reaching up to place a light kiss of good-bye on the other woman�s lips. "We�ll talk tomorrow, okay?"

"Yeah, sure. Tomorrow," Abbie echoed, pulling away. Seconds later, she�d gathered her coat and her briefcase, slipping quickly out of the station, not sparing Alex another glance.

The blonde noticed, and was startled to feel hot tears pricking the corner of her eyes. She hadn�t meant to do it, but her frustration with Abbie, with the day, with the long hours she knew she was going to put in all combined to loosen her tongue. A squad room full of eager ears was certainly no place to bring up such a delicate topic, one that she knew bothered the other woman as much as it did herself though Abbie did her best to not mention it at all.

Sitting on a bench outside of the precinct, Abbie shivered in the cold, not even really noticing. She�d screwed things up again. Why Alex even stayed with her was a mystery. She couldn�t provide what the other woman needed, couldn�t be the partner that Alex wanted. Abbie was well aware of her demons, well aware of the way they made her behave, but that knowledge didn�t do a thing to change the outcome of what was going to happen. It was all scripted beforehand, and Abbie could have told the other woman what was going to happen the very first time they kissed, if Alex had had the clairvoyant foresight to ask. She really emotionally stunted. She�d joked about it before, having heard the term a number of times from ex�s who didn�t bother to hold anything back before leaving, but it was true. Abbie knew that, and if she sat and thought about the reasons why for long enough, she could tell you what they were as well. But, she didn�t like to sit and think about them because that was painful, and it brought to mind memories best forgotten and insights that shone light on nothing but the darkest, ugliest places in her soul. Ugly emotions like fear and hate and an apathy that she couldn�t seem to escape. Memories that brought her nightmares.

"You�re going to freeze to death out here, Carmichael."

Snapping out of her trance, Abbie looked up with startled eyes to focus on a form that was slightly familiar. On second thought, very familiar.

"Detective Benson," she said crisply, too caught up in her own pathos to spare any extra energy on the niceties.

The other woman sauntered closer until she was standing in front of Abbie, dark eyes looking at her assessingly. Dejection was the word that sprang to the fore of the mind as she took in Abbie�s slumped shoulders, her hunched posture. "Is there something wrong?" she asked, and her voice was so soft in counterpoint to her expression that Abbie felt an immediate need to confess.

"No," she said harshly, then sighed. "I don�t know. I can�t seem to do anything right."

Horrified that she�d let even that much slip, Abbie stood, stooping only to scoop up her briefcase. "I�m sorry, Detective. I�ve got to go."

Nodding sympathetically, Olivia called after her, her words nearly fading into the obscurity of the darkness, "Anytime you need to talk, Abbie."

Pausing for a moment, shoulders stiffening, Abbie let the sentence settle in. But, she didn�t need to talk, and she certainly not with one of Alex�s co-workers. So instead, she threw a rough �thanks� back over her shoulder and continued walking, a decision already made in her mind.

XXXXXXXXXX

Alex stumbled wearily into her apartment, bending down to take her shoes off, letting them dangle from her fingers as she made her way down the hallway into her bedroom. Without even stopping to shed her jacket, she merely shrugged out of the garment, tossing it to the side as she made her way into the bathroom. After quickly removing her eye make-up, washing her face, and brushing her teeth, all while shrugging out of the remaining few garments she was wearing, leaving them in a careless pile on the bathroom floor, Alex headed back into her bedroom.

And screamed. Loudly.

"Oh my God," she said breathlessly moments later. "Abbie, is that you?"

"I, uh, used the key," Abbie said sheepishly, referring to the spare that Alex had given her a week before, blushing the entire time she did so. "I didn�t mean to scare you."

"Oh," Alex said, somewhat deflated. Then, with a hint of irritation, "Abbie, I told you to go home and get some rest."

Pushing herself up so that she was leaning against the headboard, bringing the sheet with her to cover her bare chest even though Alex was standing gloriously nude only a few feet away, Abbie said carefully, "I know, but I didn�t want to leave things with you like that. I didn�t want to wait until tomorrow."

Sighing, moving over so that she was sitting on the edge of the bed, Alex said wearily, "I don�t really feel like talking right now, Abbie."

There was a momentary pause, but when Abbie did speak, her voice was full of sensual intent. "I don�t feel like talking either."

"Abbie?" Alex questioned, slightly surprised. "Just exactly why did you come over."

Letting the sheet drop to her waist, skin glowing in the darkness of the room, Abbie leaned forward, wrapping a hand around Alex�s forearm. Giving a sharp tug, she brought the other woman back with her, the two of them falling together in a tangle of limbs. "I wanted to see you," she said hoarsely, tracing her hands up Alex�s arms and over her shoulders to cup the back of the blonde�s neck, tugging her closer. "I wanted to touch you. I wanted you to touch me."

Alex hovered above Abbie, indecisiveness causing her to hesitate. There were several things at play, one of them her tiredness though it was the least important. She had the distinct sensation that Abbie was trying to solve their problems through sex, and while that might be enjoyable, in the long run it wouldn�t really be profitable. On the other hand, at the very least the brunette was making a gesture, one that Alex had a sneaking suspicion it would be damaging to refuse. And, it wasn�t as if she were completely opposed to the idea. No, not at all. So, mind made up, she leaned forward, brushing her lips lightly against Abbie�s.

"Okay," she whispered, the acquiescence barely past her tongue when Abbie lurched forward, kissing her with an almost desperate intensity, fingers winding into the hair at her nape in a near painful move.

Awkwardly sliding them down while still attempting to maintain contact, Abbie closed her eyes and let everything she was feeling manifest in the kiss. Desire, confusion, longing, hope� they were all there, poured into a gesture perhaps to simple to hold the weight of their complexity. But, she was going to try nonetheless, was going to attempt to make Alex see, to make her understand, to make her happy.

Bending an arm, letting half of her weight rest on it and half on Abbie�s torso, Alex used her free hand to tear at the blanket separating her lower body from the other woman�s, tugging fiercely until it finally pulled free, leaving nothing between them. She was sucked into Abbie�s touch, into her rough kiss, into the frantic clutch of her fingers, somehow realizing that there were things being shouted without words. Things that she, unfortunately, wasn�t comprehending.

The sheet now free, she used that hand to cup Abbie�s breast, thumb brushing over the already taut peak. But, a moan of frustration urged her forward, the rough nip of Abbie�s teeth on her lower lip spurring her to slide her hand down the other woman�s belly. Legs parting wide, knees bending to draw her feet up so that she could plant them firmly on the bed, Abbie braced for Alex�s touch. Seconds later she was rewarded by the press of long fingers against her already thrumming clit, and she enjoyed the sensation a second before remembering why, exactly, she�d planned this tryst.

"No," she rasped harshly, her hand reaching down to catch Alex�s wrist, stilling her movements.

Looking up in utter confusion, not sure what she�d done wrong this time, the blonde said in exasperation, "What, Abbie? What is it?"

Swallowing nervously, Abbie turned her head to the side for a second before bring her eyes back to focus on Alex�s, well aware of the frustration and need to understand shining down at her in a wave of concerned blue. With a slow, forceful movement, she guided Alex�s hand lower, her fingers sliding so that they were covering the other woman�s, pressing them against her opening.

Eyes widening in surprise, Alex merely gaped for a second. "Abbie?" she asked in a strangled voice, not completely sure that she understood what was happening.

"I� I want you to� I want to feel you inside me," Abbie rasped weakly, body already tense with the same sense of entrapment that always came when someone tried to touch her this way. But, pushing past that, she managed to add, "Please."

Suspicious but beyond thrilled, Alex complied, sliding two fingers deeply inside the other woman. She moaned at the feel, soft walls that were so incredibly tight cocooning her. A sharp gasp from the woman below her drew her attention, and with a groan of effort, Alex tore herself away from wallowing in the sensation.

"Abbie? Are you okay?" she asked breathlessly, fingers curling up to rub gently.

Nodding her head, eyes wide in the darkness, Abbie whispered, "I�m fine. Just� just go ahead, Alex."

Happy to comply, Alex lowered her mouth to Abbie�s upper chest, desperate to taste the other woman�s flesh. Easing a thigh over to brace against the back of her hand, she began a slow rhythm, moving in and out, letting that tightness re-envelope her with each thrust. She hadn�t known that it could feel so incredibly good to fuck someone else, and maybe it had something to do with the sense that she was going somewhere she shouldn�t, like a naughty child sneaking into her parent�s bedroom, but she was quite sure that she�d never felt a thrill like the one coursing through her, one of possession and completion and finality.

Closing her eyes, Abbie let her head fall to the side, cheek pressing into the softness of the pillow. It was like she could feel Alex everywhere, from the inside out, and her chest moved jerkily with a series of half-indrawn breaths. Wrapping her fingers even more tightly in the other woman�s hair, she struggled to push down the sense of panic rolling over her, the one that told her it was too much. Like a blind woman in an enclosed room, she didn�t know where to turn, didn�t know how to escape, and as Alex began to thrust inside of her, those fingers pushing into her over and over again, she felt a hot tear slip free of a closed lid, burning down her cheek to soak into the fabric of the pillow. Trying futilely to push that back as well, she fought against the feeling of pleasure sneaking up to throw everything into even more conflict.

Alex was aware of the gasping half-sobs, and with the intense desire to bring Abbie to climax, she pushed harder, the tips of her fingers scraping against sensitive inner flesh. She was rewarded by the buck of the other woman�s hips, by a strangled moan, and finally by the harsh clench of the other woman�s body as she pushed her over the edge.

Abbie felt the orgasm wash over her, a series of empty waves, felt Alex collapse against her, hot breath searing into the flesh of her chest. When the other woman rolled off of her seconds later, Abbie immediately rolled over onto her side, back to Alex, shoulders stiff as she tried to relegate everything she was feeling to its proper place. It had been a long, long time since she�d let anyone touch her like that for more than a few moments, and it seemed now she finally had again, she couldn�t calm down. Her chest burned with short breaths and hot tears dripped down her nose, embarrassing her almost more than anything. She didn�t cry. She never cried.

"Abbie?" Alex called sleepily, rolling up behind the other woman. Placing a kiss on a sharp shoulder blade, she brought a hand up to the brunette�s half-covered face, smoothing a strand of loose hair behind the shell of a delicate ear. But, something about it caught her attention, and in a heightened state of awareness, Alex reared up in the bed, coming to her knees so that she was hovering over Abbie.

"Abbie?" This time there was more panic in her voice, and she unconsciously rubbed the tip of her finger and thumb together, the moisture there dissipating under the touch. It didn�t do anything for the slow tears streaking down the other woman�s face, though, and Alex felt a pang in her chest. Did she do that? Was that her fault? "Are you okay? Did I hurt you somehow?"

In a calmly controlled voice, Abbie said steadily, "No, I�m fine, Alex. Just go to sleep, okay."

Placing a gentle hand under Abbie�s chin, Alex urged her to look over. The other woman resisted though, keeping her eyes focused steadfastly on the opposite wall, and so Alex settled for wiping her thumb over a nearly dried tear-track, the moisture burning into her skin.

"Something�s wrong," she said softly. "Just, talk to me� please."

"Just go to sleep," Abbie said again, her voice harsh. "Alex, just go to sleep."

Drawing back as if she�d been burned, hurt and confused, Alex settled back onto the bed. She didn�t understand how Abbie could be so accessible one moment and the next� Then, with a flash of insight, it came to her. Of course, that was it. Abbie hadn�t wanted Alex to touch her, to go inside her. She�d only done it because she knew that was what Alex had wanted. It was some kind of near sacrificial offering to apologize for the fight between them, for whatever wrong Abbie perceived she�d committed, and Alex felt a wave of nausea roll over her. She�d taken advantage of it, completely blind to the obvious signals of discomfort it would have been so easy for her to read. Those weren�t sobs of pleasure.

"Jesus, Abbie," she hissed, pressing herself along the other woman�s back, wrapping her arm around the other woman�s waist, hugging possessively, "you don�t ever, ever have to prove yourself to me. And you don�t have to do something you don�t want to do just because you think I want it. Don�t you ever do that to me, much less to yourself."

Abbie sighed again, squeezing her eyes closed tightly, well aware of the tension in the form behind her. Unable to think of anything else to say, to defend her actions or to excuse Alex, she merely repeated, "Just go to sleep, Alex."

"No," the blonde said fiercely. "Not until you leave. You don�t want to be here Abbie. If there�s one thing I�ve learned about you these past few weeks, its that you don�t want this, don�t want to sleep with me."

Spinning around quickly, Abbie protested fiercely, "No, Alex, please. That�s not what I meant at all. Don�t do this�"

Pressing her hand to the other woman�s mouth, stopping the panicked flow of words, heart nearly breaking at the sight of dark eyes shining with unshed tears, Alex said kindly, "I�m not doing anything more than sending you home, Abbie. Go ahead and go. You don�t have to stay here because you think it�ll make me happy."

Shaking free of the barrier of Alex�s hand, Abbie whispered, "But I want to stay, Alex."

A smirk of disbelief shadowing her features, Alex shook her head, "You don�t have to lie, Abbie. I understand, and its okay. Don�t do this because of me."

Turning back over onto her side, once again presenting Alex with her back, Abbie said with finality, "Just go to sleep, Alex."

XXXXXXXXXX

She couldn�t breath. He was so heavy, and he�d pushed her face down onto the bedding, her nose buried in the comforter, forcing her to struggle to take in enough oxygen. A rough foot had kicked her legs apart, undoubtedly bruising her ankles as the hard sole of his shoe hit the tender, uncovered flesh, and she whimpered, fingers scratching futilely against the slick fabric of his pants. Trying to push him away, trying to make him hurt badly enough to let her go, but she couldn�t reach him, couldn�t do any damage.

She heard the rip, felt rough fingers between her legs, pulling the thin barrier of her panties to the side, and then suddenly there was so much pain. So much pain, such painful fullness, and she screamed and screamed, hands beating against the mattress as his weight pinned her, the hand on the back of her neck keeping her still.

"Get off," she screamed, feeling the hopelessness of the situation settle over her. There was nothing she could do. Nothing

"GET OFF," she screamed again, lungs burning with the force of it. "GET THE FUCK OFF OF ME!"

Alex awoke with a start, vaguely aware that she was falling but not completely sure what had happened until she hit the floor with a thump, all of the air rushing out of her lungs in a whoosh. For a moment, she lay still, disoriented, until she heard the screaming again, the voice full of such anguish, such pain that she instantly sprang to her feet, ready to defend against whatever attacker it was.

"Please," Abbie whimpered brokenly, and Alex realized with a sudden clarity that the other woman was still asleep, that she was dreaming. "Please, just stop. Please stop."

Torn, indecisive, unsure if she was the genesis of the nightmare wracking the other woman�s frame and thus an undoubtedly unwelcome savior from nocturnal demons, bringing nightmare into reality, she stood, conflicted. But, she couldn�t stay away from the other woman, not as that pitiful voice begged a phantom to stop, and so she slid back into the bed, rubbing her hand comfortingly down the other woman�s back.

"Sshh, Abbie. Quiet now, its just a dream," she whispered, curling her body around the other woman�s. She was immediately pushed back, and the intensity of Abbie�s voice increased, filling with anger.

"GET THE FUCK OFF OF ME!" Abbie screamed again, her voice hoarse, raw, and Alex stiffened.

Frustrated, unsure how to help the other woman but well aware that she wasn�t simply going to let her be, she reached over, shaking Abbie�s shoulder roughly.

"Abbie," she said loudly, "Abbie, wake up. You�re having a nightmare."

There was a sharp gasp, and then Abbie sat up quickly, eyes flashing around the room in terror for a moment. Her cheeks were flushed red, tendrils of sweat dampened hair clung to the sides of her face, and Alex reached out softly to place a comforting hand on the other woman�s forearm.

Jerking away, Abbie turned her gaze to Alex for a moment, eyes still wild. Her breathing still rapid, she stumbled out of bed, hastily jerking on her clothes.

"I�ve got to go," she said roughly, quickly buttoning her pants. "I�m sorry, I�ve got to go."

Alex sat in stunned silence for a moment, watching as Abbie fled. Then, propelling herself into motion, she sprang from the bed, taking the sheet with her. Wrapping it loosely around her torso, she chased after her lover, bare feet padding loudly on the hardwood flooring.

"Abbie, wait," she called, catching the other woman half-way out of her front door. With an air of supernatural calm, Abbie turned slowly, fixing Alex with a frigid, penetrating gaze, every ounce of haughty superiority she�d ever possessed manifesting itself in the gesture.

"Not now, Alex," she said coolly, then walked out, shutting the door firmly behind her.

Shocked, Alex merely stood in her living room, sheet slipping from her loose grasp, and stared at the door in silence.

XXXXXXXXXX

"You can�t make these kinds of decisions without consulting me first!"

Jack McCoy�s roar could be heard through the entire floor, and in those areas where the venting was particularly good, on a few upper floors as well. The only thing his ire earned was a cocked brow and a bored, impatient scowl, which only served to increase his anger tenfold.

"I was well within my jurisdiction, Jack. You know that," Abbie said lazily, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms over her chest. "Just because you don�t like what I�ve done doesn�t mean that you can try to march in here and pull rank. Its bullshit, and its not going to work."

Fuming, feeling the tips of his ears turn red with repressed anger, Jack took ten seconds to calm down, dutifully counting each tick off in his mind. When that didn�t work, he counted another ten and then another until he realized that Abbie was looking at him with abject amusement. That erased whatever small progress he�d made, putting him back in the extremely furious zone.

"I just won�t allow you to�" he started to rant, only to be cut short by the ringing of the telephone. Holding up a finger, putting her co-worker on hold, Abbie snatched the receiver off of its cradle.

"Carmichael," she barked, letting some of the antagonism that she was feeling toward Jack bleed through into her tone.

"Abbie, its Alex. We need to talk."

Barely repressing a growl, Abbie spun to the side in her chair, not wanting to face Jack while she spoke with Alex. She wasn�t exactly sure why, whether it was because she felt her facial expressions might inadvertently give something away or whether it was because she just didn�t want the man to have any bearing on her personal life. Either way, it was the worst possible moment for the call, one that she�d already been avoiding for days. Just like she�d been avoiding the caller.

"Not now, Alex," she said sharply. "We�ll talk later."

Not bothering to hang around and listen to any more protestations, completely sure that she didn�t want Jack to be in the same room with her when she had that conversation, Abbie slammed the phone down, once more turning a dark, laconic grin Jack�s way.

"Continue," she said airily, waving her hand as if she were the queen at court, and McCoy sputtered.

Upstairs, Alex stared with amazement at the phone. Abbie had hung up on her. No niceties, no hello, no sorry for not calling� just those exact same words she�d said before walking out and then a dial tone.

Sitting back hard in her chair, Alex felt her anger grow. It wasn�t as if it were the first time she�d tried to talk with Abbie. She�d seen her at the courthouse, recognizing her from a distance by that long-legged, cocky stride, but when she�d approached, Abbie had dismissed her, claiming a court appearance. She�d tried calling the other woman at home, but no one ever answered, and she�d tried her office numerous times only to reach voicemail. So, she�d left messages, none of which had been returned, and as each transgression made its mental accounting, she became more and more determined that this had to end. They had to talk, if for no other reason than to end things, because she wasn�t going to put up with the emotional ravage left by the current situation any longer.

So, with determined steps, she made her way down the hallway, into the elevator and down to Abbie�s floor. Eyes forward, focused on her goal, she stalked until the office she was looking for came into view, and without even bothering to knock, she flung the door open, words already spewing out of her mouth.

"We�ve got to talk about this, Abbie. You�ve been avoiding me for almost three days," she said sharply, trailing off only at the end when she noticed the looks of shock coming at her from not only her erstwhile lover but from Jack McCoy as well.

Instantly noticing the blonde�s stricken look, Abbie sprang into action. Things might be monumentally bad at the moment, but hopefully some salvaging could be done. "Listen, Cabot, I told you that I have the authorization to help with SVU cases. If you have a problem with it, take it up with your superior."

For a moment, Alex merely stared at Abbie in utter confusion, before the slight cut of brown eyes in Jack�s direction let her in on what the other woman was doing.

"So she�s managing to screw things up not only in her own office but in yours as well, Ms. Cabot," Jack said huffily, his anger outweighing his good sense. A cutting look from Abbie and a vague scowl of disapproval from Alex stopped him short, though, and he merely sat back with a snort of disgust.

"I�d prefer to discuss the matter with you," Alex said calmly, hoping to convey her distress over their separation without having to give too much away.

Shooting another bored glance Jack�s way, Abbie sighed, "As you can see, I�m already busy getting my ass chewed out, so you�ll just have to take a number."

"Maybe," Alex said slowly, deliberately, "I can speak with you for a few moments outside. Surely Mr. McCoy would appreciate the extra time to scrounge up additional insults."

Abbie nearly laughed at that, while Jack sat forward, unsure if the cool, beautiful blonde was coming to his aid or subtly insulting him. He chose to think of it as the former, and nodded his head in satisfaction.

"Go ahead, Abbie," he said regally. "I can wait."

Trapped, desperately wishing that she could completely avoid speaking with either of the parties wishing to speak with her, Abbie nonetheless made her way out into the hall. Walking a good distance away from her office to a more secluded corner, she leaned up against the wall, arms folded across her chest.

"So talk," she prompted.

"Why are you making this difficult, Abbie?" Alex asked immediately, exasperated. Body language alone told her that this wasn�t going to be a successful discussion.

Shrugging her shoulders, eyes hard, Abbie replied, "I�m not making anything hard, Alex. I told you on the phone that it wasn�t a good time."

"Actually no, you didn�t," Alex shot back angrily, then forced herself to calm down. "You just walk out on me in the middle of the night, avoid my calls for three days, run away when I see you at the courthouse� why don�t you just come out and say whatever it is you�re so obviously trying to say to me, Abbie?"

"Fine," Abbie said angrily, voice low. "I�m not sure this is working out, Alex. Maybe we should take a break."

"Great," Alex said, laughing without humor. "I know that we�ve got some issues to deal with, least of which is what happened the other night, but I expected more. No, wait, I didn�t. You�re good at running away, aren�t you Abbie?"

The words hurt, as Abbie�s sharply indrawn breath could attest, but her expression didn�t change. "I don�t want to talk about this right now, Alex," she said coldly, shoulders stiffening.

"When are you going to want to talk about it? Never? Is this it? A permanent break," Alex sneered, well aware that she was unduly upset. Well, perhaps not unduly upset, but at the very least not as able to control her emotions as was Abbie. The other woman was as still as a statue, her face and her voice and her expression giving away nothing.

"I didn�t say that," Abbie said stiffly, scowling deeply.

Alex nearly growled in frustration. She�d interviewed serial rapists who were easier to talk with. "I don�t know what you want from me. I�m trying here, obviously more than you are, and suddenly I'm beginning to question the wisdom of my actions. You�re all smoke and mirrors, Abbie. I don�t think I know anything of substance, do I?"

"I�ve trusted you more than anyone else," Abbie said harshly, the strict control over her emotions giving way for a moment. "More than anyone, Alex."

"Then why won�t you trust me now," Alex said softly, leaning forward until she was only inches away from Abbie, ignoring the way the other woman stiffened at the invasion of her personal space. "Tell me what I did wrong."

"You didn�t do anything wrong," Abbie said starkly, turning her head to the side and breaking eye contact. "I really don�t want to talk about this, Alex. Can we not just leave it alone, go back to the way things were?"

"They way things were, Abbie?" Alex echoed sharply, shutting her eyes for a moment in an attempt to keep hold of her sanity. "Relationships are supposed to progress, not regress."

"Don�t patronize me," Abbie snapped in reply, bringing her hand up to pinch the bridge of her nose, a futile attempt at warding off the stress headache she could feel creeping into place.

Sighing, well aware that they were going in circles, vacillating from confusion to anger, not really getting anything accomplished, Alex backed down. "Tomorrow�s Friday. After work, we�ll go out, have a good time. Then we�ll talk, okay?"

Nodding wearily, Abbie agreed. "Tomorrow after work. Meet me at my place around 8?"

Smiling, Alex acquiesced. "I�ll call if something comes up. We can work this out, Abbie."

And then, looking both ways quickly to make sure they were alone, Alex pressed up, her lips brushing against the other woman�s for the briefest of seconds. Abbie nodded shortly, eyes softening ever so slightly. Watching her walk away, Alex leaned back against the wall, wondering just when, exactly, she�d become so invested.

XXXXXXXXXX

The knock, when it came, immediately set Abbie�s nerves on edge. She wasn�t looking forward to seeing Alex, not at all. Well, more accurately, she wasn�t looking forward to talking, and Alex necessarily came with that. She�d spent most of the night before sleepless, wondering if the relationship was really worth all of the hassle that she was sure was about to come to pass. It wasn�t as if they�d sworn to be together for all time, or even mentioned those binding little three words. Everything had been going, if not perfectly, then at least without strife until �the incident�.

She�d taken to calling it that in her mind. An emotional outburst like the one she�d had deserved nothing less, she imagined. She�d let her guard down, shown far more than she�d wanted to show, and now she was going to have to deal with the consequences. It would have been far better, she acknowledged at this late date, to have just left things as they were. But no, she�d had to go and try and fix things, or at the very least tried to force something from herself that she knew she wasn�t ready to give, and so now they were both embroiled in the intensely trying mess that she�d created.

Taking a moment to roll her shoulders and pop her neck, almost like a boxer gearing up for a fight, Abbie moved across her living room. The door swung open to reveal an Alex who had obviously gone home after work to change, and Abbie breathed a sigh of relief that she�d thrown on a pair of jeans. She�d realized after they parted that she didn�t have any idea of what Alex�s notion of a good time before the death knell of the "talk" arrived was, so she�d gone with comfort. If she was going to have to deal with an excess of emotion, then she was going to do so in something she liked to wear.

"Come in," she said evenly, giving the door a push but not moving out of the way. It forced Alex to brush by her on the way into the apartment, a self-indulgent though perhaps self-destructive move on her part.

Alex moved awkwardly into the room. She made her way over to the couch but didn�t sit, almost as if she wasn�t sure what to do and didn�t want to make any wrong moves. Suppressing an exasperated groan, Abbie motioned for her to take a seat, and Alex did so with such alacrity that she banged her knee against the coffee table.

At the sharp yelp of pain, Abbie laughed, not able to stop herself even when Alex glared at her. The other woman sighed melodramatically, flopping back against the couch, bringing her knee up so that she could rub it with one hand. "Well, now that we�ve broken through that initial awkwardness�" she muttered in self-deprecation.

Feeling infinitely more at ease, Abbie drawled, "So where are we going to have this good time you promised?"

"I don�t know," Alex sighed, looking at the brunette out of the corner of her eye. "I hadn�t actually planned that far in advance. Just getting you to talk to me in the first place seemed like enough of an accomplishment."

Chagrined, Abbie blushed. "Yeah, about that�"

"No apologies," Alex said quickly, cutting her off. Then, "Jack didn�t finish you off after I left, did he?"

Abbie rolled her eyes at that. "He wishes. For the most part, we get along, but sometimes he gets the idea that he�s God of the Manhattan DA�s office. We tend to not get along when he goes through those phases," she said dryly, eliciting a chuckle from Alex.

"Because you�re the easiest person in the world to get along with," she said with a grin.

Looking vaguely affronted, Abbie protested, "All you have to do is know a few little tricks and I�m as pliable as a kitten."

"I�ll believe that when I see it," Alex muttered. "Pliable as a kitten? God, you�re a horrible liar."

Snorting, Abbie shrugged. "So maybe I was stretching the truth just a little bit. Jack just manages to push my buttons sometimes, and I know I can push all his. But, enough about work."

The last words were said with jumpy emphasis, and Alex could almost picture Abbie bounding off the couch, full of nervous energy and expectation. She�d proposed the evening, had come with the definite expectation that they would talk, but now she wasn�t quite sure what to do. Leading into delicate conversations usually proved tricky for her even without the emotionally distant factor unique to her companion thrown in to make things especially difficult. And, now that she was at Abbie�s apartment, she found herself compelled to talk about things that she�d sworn she�d leave for later. It was just so difficult though, having all of the questions and speculations and hurts that had been lingering in her mind for days spring to the fore and not be able to voice them. So, knowing even as she did so that it was undoubtedly a very bad idea, Alex decided to go ahead and get the tough part of the evening out of the way.

"I�m sorry about the other night. I�m sorry that I made you feel pressure to do something you didn�t want to do, and I�m sorry that I didn�t realize that fact sooner," Alex said apologetically, almost wincing at the exasperated moan that erupted from her companion.

"I thought you promised fun before the serious talk," Abbie nearly whined, extremely unhappy with the turn events had taken. She�d half convinced herself that if she could persuade Alex to put off the conversation, the blonde would actually forget about it entirely.

Apologetically, Alex murmured, "I know. But I can�t just go out and pretend nothing�s wrong when something obviously is. I mean, you did avoid me for over three days after fleeing my presence. I almost believed you weren�t ever going to talk to me again at all."

Abbie was silent for a long moment, then with a sigh she turned, propping one leg up on the couch between herself and Alex, eyes watching the other woman intently. "There are a lot of things about me that I can�t change," she started slowly, her voice grave. "I may want to change them, I may work to change them, and I might even eventually succeed at changing them, but for the moment, they are as they are and nothing I can do is going to change that. I�ve never been one to rehash things countless times, and I�m not big on deep, meaningful conversations, so I�m only going to say all of this once. I knew that you weren�t exactly happy� you were happy enough, but not really happy, so I thought that I�d try to change something about myself and in doing so fix whatever was wrong. Obviously, it didn�t work, for reasons that I just really don�t want to get into. I�m sorry that I avoided you. It was wrong and didn�t do anything to solve the problem that I�d created. I�m not entirely sure why you seem to want to salvage things between us. I�m difficult to deal with, I know that. You�re undoubtedly going to find yourself frustrated with me and angry with me countless times if you decide you don�t want to leave."

Alex sat, shocked into silence. She hadn�t heard Abbie speak that candidly or that openly about herself and her emotions in the entire time they�d known one another, and as such had to gather together the various scraps of responses floating through her mind and piece them together into some sort of coherent form. The effort proved to be useless though when all she managed was a confused, "But why, Abbie?"

It was an ineffectual question, vague and perhaps already succinctly answered, but Alex couldn�t help voicing it anyway.

"Why what?" Abbie asked in confusion. "Why did I let you� Why did I try to act like a normal human being for once? Because I thought I�d probably have a better chance of making this work if my fucked up psyche got out of the way. Hell, Alex, you can�t tell me that you don�t get frustrated with me. I know you wanted more, and I was trying to give it to you. You wanted something normal, something simple and easy and real."

Alex felt a range of emotions wash over her, most too fleeting to recognize. The ones that stood out most clearly were affection, desire, a giddy sense of relief and the need to convince the other woman that everything would work out.

"You don�t simplify my life, Abbie," was all she managed to choke out, still struggling under the weight of her excess emotions. "You don�t make things easy, but I never said that was what I wanted."

"Well, what do you want?" The words almost exploded from Abbie�s lips, frustration evident in her tone. "I never get it right, Alex."

Brows narrowing in concern, Alex hesitantly reached out until her fingers rested lightly over Abbie�s hand. "What do you think you�ve gotten wrong? I�ll admit that there are parts of you that I don�t understand, but that�s okay. I�ll even admit that sometimes I get frustrated, that I want to understand what you so obviously can�t make me understand, but I certainly don�t want you to compromise yourself to give that to me."

In response, Abbie laughed harshly, her free hand reaching up to run through her hair, unsettling the previously immaculately smooth locks. "God, what drama. All I want to hear is that we�re okay, Alex. Either tell me we�re okay or tell me that its over. I can�t take much more self-examination."

"Well then, I guess we�re okay," Alex said slowly, aware that she�d gotten as much out of Abbie as she was going to get. At the very least, it appeared to be progress.

"Good then. You promised me fun, Cabot, and its time you delivered."

XXXXXXXXXX

"Stop fidgeting. I�m the one who should be nervous," Abbie drawled, chuckling at the glare the words earned.

"They�re not your parents," Alex said succinctly, once again returning her gaze to the rear view mirror. Another quick check of her lipstick revealed that it was as immaculate as it had been the first time she�d checked it, and without anything else to do, Alex decided that they were going to have to get out of the car.

"Exactly," Abbie said triumphantly, following Alex up the walkway. "You�ve known them all your life. I�m meeting them for the first time today, hence I should be nervous, not you. Haven�t you seen �Meet the Parents�? All of the burden for appearing perfect is resting squarely on my shoulders."

Rolling her eyes, Alex said cheekily, "Well then, we�re doomed to fail."

"I�m wounded," Abbie said wryly. "Such a blow to my ego, and only seconds before I�m expected to be dazzling. You really should work on your pep talks, Alex."

"I�ll pencil that in," the blonde retorted, anxiously smoothing down the front of her dress. Not that there was much she could do about the few wrinkles it had picked up on the drive in. On second thought, maybe she should change. Yeah, just turn around, drive back and pick out something new. Something new and wrinkle resistant. That sounded like a good plan.

Almost as if sensing her plan, Abbie reached over, entwining their fingers together. "Really, though, why are you so anxious? Afraid I�ll start talking about steer wrasslin� and embarrass you in front of your parents?" she joked, trying to lighten the rather oppressive air hanging over her companion.

"You�ll see," was all Alex said by way of reply. Then, with a barely shaking finger, she reached out to depress the ringer to the doorbell. Seconds later the clip of heels on hardwood sounded faintly from behind the thick oak doors of what Abbie secretly thought of as Alex�s palatial house. The footsteps were followed shortly by the click of the doorknob turning, and as it swung open, Abbie got her first glimpse of Alex Cabot, Sr. She was regally beautiful, with vibrant blonde hair only lightly streaked with gray, slim, aristocratic features and an air of old money virtually dripping from every pore.

"Mother," Alex said coolly, tugging on Abbie�s hand, "this is Abbie Carmichael. Abbie, this is my mother, Victoria Helsing-Cabot."

The other woman looked at Abbie briefly, then just as quickly dismissed her. "When you told me you were bringing someone, I assumed you meant someone suitable," she said coldly, and it took everything Abbie had to stifle a laugh. She knew it was highly inappropriate, but she couldn�t help it. How wonderfully classic.

Alex smiled sweetly, though there was venom behind it. "I thought you�d be thrilled to meet my lover, Mother," she said, and Abbie nearly winced. Oh, Alex had pulled out the big guns. Not friend, not girlfriend, not companion, but lover.

Looking at Abbie almost as if she were something that had crawled up out of the swamp, Victoria merely said, "Yes, well, I�ve put you and your� person� in your usual room. You are staying the night, aren�t you?"

Unable to stay quiet any longer, Abbie broke in, hand extended in greeting. "Mrs. Cabot, it�s a pleasure to meet you. Please, feel free to call me Abbie. I answer to it almost as often as I do person."

After an extremely limp handshake, Abbie stuffed her own hands in her pockets, not quite sure what to do next. They were still effectively standing on the doorstep, almost as if Victoria hadn�t decided whether or not to let them in, and she was growing a bit anxious.

"We�re not staying tonight," Alex said smoothly, wrapping her hand around Abbie�s wrist and tugging her inside. "I do want to give Abbie the tour, though. What time are we eating?"

"Seven o�clock, just like always," Victoria said crisply. After giving Abbie another vague look of disgust, she turned and walked away, leaving them standing alone in the huge marble foyer.

"Well," Abbie drawled sarcastically, "Its obvious where you get your wit and charm."

An affronted glare and a slap to her upper arm later, Abbie muttered, "Just kidding."

"Uh-hmm. Keep it up, and I�ll leave you to my mother�s tender mercies," Alex mock threatened, the effect ruined by the smirk on her face. "Now come on, I want to show you around."

"Like that�s a threat," Abbie said blithely. "Your mother seemed to love me."

Alex snorted, unable to help it. "Uh-huh. You want to start with my room?"

"That depends," Abbie said with a sexy smile. "Do you still have those boarding school uniforms up there?"

Rolling her eyes, Alex sighed. "The likelihood of those uniforms ever making a reappearance is slim to none. But, I do have a surprise for you, one I think you�ll like."

"A surprise?" Abbie echoed in question, one dark brow inching up her forehead.

But Alex didn�t answer. Instead, she made her way over to the staircase, pausing there to turn and look over her shoulder at Abbie, a sly smile on her face, and the brunette decided that it was in her best interests to follow� posthaste. So she did, walking alongside Alex in silence as they made their way up the curving stairway to the second floor. It seemed as if they walked forever down the hallway, making a few twists and turns along the way, until finally Alex paused in front of a closed door, eyeing it with a mixture of nostalgia and dread. Coming home was always a bit emotional for her, for reasons she couldn�t exactly pinpoint, and now, for the first time really, she was going to share that with someone else. But first, she had other plans.

"So this is it?" Abbie asked lightly, taking in Alex�s suddenly somber mood. "Bet it was hell to sneak out. You have to walk a mile just to make it to the front door."

"I didn�t ever sneak out," Alex said distractedly, reaching forward to push the door open. Her room was as it always had been, left alone by her mother in some sort of maternal need to keep a bit of her child around, an instinct that Alex didn�t necessarily understand since her mother had never really bothered keeping her around much when she was younger. It was always boarding schools and trips abroad, with brief visits home for holidays and a few weeks in the summer.

"Not even once?" Abbie asked, sneaking a peek around Alex�s form. The room was large, with a huge bed taking up one wall and a bank of windows another. There was a desk, still piled high with textbooks, and assorted knick-knacks and school awards scattered across various surfaces. All in all, it was almost like a teen-aged version of Alex�s loft, one only barely touched with the clutter of youth.

Looking back over her shoulder, shooting the other woman a slightly annoyed glance, Alex confirmed succinctly, "Not even once."

Moving into the room, brushing past Alex as she did so, Abbie drawled, "Its okay. I never did either. Daddy would have beat our butts if he�d have caught us doing something like that."

The soft snick of the door closing behind her drew Abbie�s attention, and when she turned it was to see Alex standing there in nothing but a pale peach silk bra and matching panties, the soft cream cowl necked cashmere dress that she�d agonized over earlier having apparently been shed in one quick, soundless movement. Stunned into silence for a moment, Abbie merely gaped at the other woman, her brain not quite up to functioning. There was a look of serious intent on Alex�s face, blue eyes scraping up and down the brunette�s form hungrily, and without further thought, Abbie took a step forward.

"Alex?" she questioned, sure and yet not at all sure what was going on.

A quick move reversed their positions, sending Abbie into the back of the door with a muffled thump, and in seconds Alex was on her knees before the other woman, fingers easily undoing the button on the other woman�s gray wool pants.

"I always wanted to do this," she said, easing the pants and undergarment beneath down until they were in a pile at Abbie�s feet, gently lifting one leg free.

In a strangled, slightly confused voice, Abbie stammered, "But you�ve done this before�"

"Maybe," Alex said dismissively, hands ghosting down Abbie�s inner thighs, spreading them apart, "but I�ve never done it here."

"But�" Abbie started, only to have the half formed sentence die off in a moan. One hand searched about frantically for some sort of support, eventually latching onto the door knob, while the other immediately found the top of Alex�s head, pressing the blonde closer to her even as she felt her knees grow weak. Alex�s tongue was, well, divine, and something about the knowledge that the other woman was apparently living out an adolescent fantasy with her made the encounter all the more arousing. In only a few minutes, she was groaning out her climax, sliding weakly down the wood of the door to collapse in a heap of exhausted limbs on the carpet.

"Jesus, Alex," she managed finally, idly kicking off her shoes and sliding her pants off, sure that they�d have to be straightened out before she could even think of putting them back on, "are there any more rooms that you want to show me?"

Alex laughed, thumb and forefinger wiping delicately at the corners of her mouth. Turning a bright smile Abbie�s way, she nodded her head toward the bed. "Oh, we haven�t quite finished with this one yet."

"Is that so," Abbie said with the arch of a brow. "Let me guess, you used to lay there in the dark, dreaming about some faceless, nameless woman and�"

"Abbie," Alex growled warningly, breaking into the other woman�s musings.

Giving a laugh of her own, Abbie shrugged. "What? Its not like I didn�t do it too."

Alex eyed the brunette appraisingly. "You�ll have to show me sometime. But, not today. Today I have other plans. Plans in which your active participation features heavily."

Whipping her blouse off over her head, mussing her hair almost irreparably with the gesture, Abbie murmured, "You could have warned me, you know. I�d have worn something less likely to wrinkle."

"Well," Alex hummed, scooting across the floor and to the bed, followed closely by a predatory crawling Abbie, "I hadn�t quite made up mind my. It was tempting, but I wasn�t sure."

"What changed you mind?" the brunette rasped, the hoarse tone nearly sending a shiver down Alex�s spine.

Eyeing her lover for a moment, Alex finally said, "You met my mother, and the fulfillment of a long held desire and a bit of adolescent rebellion seemed like the perfect accompaniment to the experience."

After a short, stunned moment, Abbie merely laughed.

"Rebellion indeed�"

Continue to Part 6 (the conclusion)

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