A Christmas Collection
—Author’s Note— These stories were written between Dec. 24, 2003 and May 10, 2004. The shorter offerings were written for “100 words or less” challenges; the longer pieces for “100+” challenges. Both challenge communities existed on Livejournal. The author, misstexan9821, does not (though she should) hold herself responsible for the content herein, nor does she guarantee the quality thereof. This present has been 10 years in the making. You didn’t know it, reader—and neither did the author—but today is almost exactly ten years to the date of the author’s first fanfiction publication. Tread with care, read in small doses, and please keep all feedback to yourself. Hang on to your hats, folks. —JY Dec. 21, 2013
Eat Fresh. Her first, his last Black Knight Business as Usual Untitled Distant Hills Look Green Sing Me Home Comfort Zone Some Assembly Required Tea for Two After-work Shirt Sheer Brilliance Angel Plea-bargain Duckling Bonds Untitled Abbie’s Christmas Persona Miscommunication Unsuspecting Crimson Princess Broken A Rough Fifth Betrayal Three Shadows Cirque du Lapin
New York’s Finest The Last Goodbye It’s Not Unusual Two hearts, tangled as one Her silent, still reflection When good games go bad Something Blue Winter Hat Foolish Games Untitled Refuge More Than Enough Shades of Laughter She’s Dangerous Reversal
Table of Contents
Abbie stood behind the counter, fixing sandwiches automatically. “Provolone or cheddar on that turkey/salami club?” she asked. When no answer came, she looked up. An older man was staring at her, reading the name on her tag. “Abbie?” he asked, eyebrow raised. Giving him the once-over, noting his red-checked gingham apron, she retorted, “Well if it isn’t Professor McCoy. You’ve made the big leap from Home-Ec class to Bath & Body Works. It fits.” She took an enormous bite out of his sandwich and stifled her husky laughter between two pieces of salami.
Her first, his last
He sits, eyes blurry from the fourth drink. He can barely make out her figure, but he knows she’s standing there. It’s the first time she’s seen him looking like this, and for once, he’s ashamed. His hair a mess, his face a painting as he tries to force a Mona Lisa smile. She smiles back. Her naïveté irks him, but it’s the scotch talking. The scotch that knows him in and out. “Jack?” she ventures. “Please don’t come in, Serena,” he replies firmly, and rises to close the door on her, hoping it will be the last.
Ed scrubbed at his cheek until it was redder than the lipstick stain he was trying so desperately to wash off. So many reminders jeered at him: a sweet perfume lingering on his shirt, earrings she had left by mistake, a voice in his ears. His face raw from rubbing, Ed tried to remember how she got in, when she had left, most importantly who she was. And then he saw the black Gucci sitting by the door. “Shit,” he moaned as he remembered it was the blonde who had smiled as she sweet-talked and called him her ‘Black Knight’.
Business as Usual Location: undisclosed Time and date: unknown *** Lennie's Cheshire cat grin appeared as he clicked send, and away the email flew to GoodbyeWoolHat@Hang-emHigh.net *** Arthur stood open-mouthed, gaping at Serena as she entered his office in a burlap-sack dress and moccasins. “Haven’t you heard? Burlap’s the new silk, velour, and suede!” *** Bobby’s ego still smarted after the bitter defeat he suffered against Eames; her cocky half-smile was salt on his thousand paper cuts. *** Elliot pointed and laughed at the TV as his favorite show, Reba, came on. ‘I’ll leave the macho-man stuff for someone more appropriate,’ Elliot thought, and on cue, Munch’s charming face plastered itself all over his brain.
Comfortable in his jeans and button-down shirt, Jack sat at his desk, chewing thoughtfully on a date. Abbie walked in without knocking, like she always did, and eyed him suspiciously. “What the heck is that?” she drawled. “A date,” he replied, without looking up. “With me? Jack, I’m, well, I’m honored!” The playful sarcasm that painted her tone forced Jack to smile. “Only you would’ve taken it like that, Abbie. I was talking about the fruit.” He shook his head. “It’s a date, then,” she surmised. Abbie snickered gleefully at Jack’s confusion and walked out, leaving him with half a date resting between his lips.
Distant Hills Look Green
From where he sits on the couch, the room is dark and colorless. Fourth scotch in hand, his back groans as he stands up. Varying grays distinguish his life. Scarred and charcoal-colored is the memory of his past women. A shooting pain rushes behind his eyes. He shouldn’t have let them go. A fuzzy, muted gray depicts his work. Satisfying, not rewarding, it too is becoming black. He stumbles backwards. Again on the couch, he allows himself one thought of her, then thinks of the day a future-her will walk back into his office, into his life. From where he sits on the couch, distant hills look green.
Sing Me Home
“I need some time off, Jack.” She flew by and left a trail of papers fluttering down to the desk. She got in her car and drove. She didn’t know the specifics, but she knew she needed to get away. Each morning she would wake up and feel incomplete; a little chunk of her heart would stop beating. Thirty-six non-stop, except for bathroom breaks, hours later, she opened the door, climbed out of the car, and stretched. She breathed in the familiar Texas air, felt the sunshine warm her New York hardened skin. Her heart felt renewed within her chest, whole again. “It’s good to be home,” she sighed.
Ed shuffled into the squadroom. Like an old photo album, everything was familiar, comfortable: the faces, the colors, the cold cups of coffee on the dilapidated old desks. “Where’s Lieu?” Ed asked Lennie who was busy tapping and cursing at his computer. “Crashing somewhere in New Guinea. She had a busy night last night,” Lennie replied, still intent on the screen. Everything Lennie said either had a sexual undertone or was sarcastic. He was always taking potshots at his colleagues; his comments had to be taken with a cup of sugar. Anita staggered in, looking weary and fatigued. “Don was hit by a car last night,” she whispered, tears welling in her eyes. Ed sighed and moved to comfort her; “There’s a new war every day.”
Some Assembly Required
“Pour me ‘notherone,” Ed slurred as he flashed his heart-melting smile. “For you? Sure!” Lennie yelled, the volume of his voice increasing with every word in familiar drunkenman speech. Ed fumbled with the exhaust pipe. Hell if he should know where to stick this little thing. He tossed the plastic piece at Lennie, hitting him in the shoulder. “Ow-ow! You hitme you big oaf!” Lennie joked. “Give’t to me,” he ordered. Ed held up the model car, a gorgeous burgundy jaguar, and cocked his head towards it. When Lennie nodded, Ed gently handed over the car, as a mother hands her newborn back to the nurse. Lennie expertly placed the exhaust pipe on, completing the model. “Now there’sa beauty,” he exclaimed to Ed who was snoring, facedown, like a zebra. “Bigbaby. Can’t even stay awake for the reveal!”
Tea for Two
Serena kicked back in her chair. She flipped her shoes off and not-so-gently plopped her feet on her desk. Her herbal tea threatened to tip over, but with her cat-like reflexes, she saved her desk from the premeditated destruction. “That’s right,” Serena affirmed aloud. “I know you were plotting against me.” “Talking to our tea now, are we?” Arthur stepped in her office, saw her bare feet. “I wasn’t aware we shared tea, but, yes,” Serena teased. Fanning herself with one hand, she commented, “It’s getting awfully hot in here, don’t you think?” Arthur’s head perked up, his eyes acquired a childish gleam, and he slowly nodded. Serena made as if to undo her shirt buttons, but seeing Arthur’s anticipation, paused. “You’d be so lucky.”
Jack sat poised. He contemplated flipping the coin. Heads-yes, tails-no. Tails-yes, heads-no. If luck were with him, the coin would land on its ridges, forcing him to acknowledge the dregs of his memories and make an honest decision. If. Jack fiddled with the collar of his “after-work” shirt. He laughed aloud, remembering the day he decided to change clothes after the commute to work, and before heading home. That had been an instinctive decision. No nonsense. Jack tossed the coin high in the air and looked down at the paper.
The radiant sun glaring off of the brilliant snow forced Abbie to shield her eyes as she exited the courthouse. Missing from her left side was the fiercer, more complex, part of what she and Jack jokingly referred to as The McCarmichael; the pair of intelligently spontaneous minds working undercover as ingenious lawyers. As she walked, Abbie thought back to her very first case working with Jack. He had questioned her ethics, as well as her approach, but his trust was evident. Since then, the two had made remarkable convictions, with the help of their exceptional police squad. Brilliant sun. Brilliant lawyers. Brilliant convictions. Brilliant police. It had been an extraordinary case, even without Abbie’s ‘‘Mc’’sidekick.
Jack was reminded of her everywhere he looked. From the flowers that sat on his table because they couldn’t be delivered, to her picture on his mantle, to a ratty old briefcase she had bought him one Christmas; a Christmas that seemed part of another lifetime. He couldn’t remember how many times he’d wished that it weren’t true, that she would walk into his office with that devil-may-care smile she saved especially for him. Jack drew in a breath and exhaled slowly. He looked down at his feet, then lifted his head and whispered, “Happy Birthday, Claire.”
"Offer him 25 to life, but take the death penalty off the table." "What if I said I wasn't in a plea-bargaining mood?" "I might tell you it's not your job to decide plea-bargaining times and tactics." "You know this case! You've seen the same pictures! You've gone over the same evidence. I know that not only can we convict this man, but we can send him straight to death row where he can happily await a single prick in the arm." "The death penalty is not the answer to all crimes." "But for this one? It is."
The pond was Lennie’s safe-haven. It was where he spent his precious moments of downtime. He sat down on one of the wrought-iron benches. The winds picked up and nipped smartly at his unprotected flesh. Lennie pulled his fleece hat down to discourage further damage to his already bright-red ears. A lone yellow duckling strutted past him in a crooked line. The wind was affecting him, too. “Hey little chickie,” Lennie cooed. The duck looked up at Lennie with accusing eyes, quacked rather offensively, then continued on. Lennie stood up and chuckled, “Guess it takes one to know one.”
"Jurors. Lawyers. Judges. The system. They're all a mess." "You don't mean that." "And why the hell don't I? Oh, throw a grandfather onto that list. Sick bastard." "Come on. The jury didn't blatantly let off a rapist." "Yeah? Then who'd they 'blatantly let off'? Mother Theresa?" "You better watch what you say around here..." "I'm just so damn tired of not seeing justice served. Too many rapists, pedophiles, serial killers. Too many have walked. Period." "But think of all those who haven't. That says something. You know that." "Well, then. It's too bad I'm beginning to question that knowledge, isn't it?"
Abbie’s Christmas Persona
Her furrowed brow unwrinkled. She inhaled, held the breath for a moment, and exhaled. This was the one time of year Abbie loved; the holiday season, short as it may have been, meant peace, relief, and a chance to let out her more human side. Her gruff replies, often mistaken as barks of indifference, were replaced by smiling responses made with eye contact. Her stiff wardrobe of suit-type skirts and jackets was neatly folded on her closet shelf while she was decked out in festive ensembles. Yes, the holidays did something magical to Abbie. They brought a twinkle to her eye, a rosy tint to her cheeks, and a dimple to her devilish smile... “Thank god Christmas only comes once a year,” Jack snorted.
The feds were going to ask ADA Claire Kincaid to sit first chair on the upcoming, largely-publicized, case. ----This Jack-Claire relationship just wasn’t working. ----Claire knew she had to tell him…but there was so much pressure with the recent news of her upcoming ‘first-chair seating’ for the trial. She wasn’t being true to her feelings, or fair to his. It was an awk-
ward situation, to be sure, but this was how it had to be. And she knew that; even though that font of knowledge resided in a place so deep within her, it hardly ever hit the surface. ----‘I don’t know how Claire will handle this,’ Jack thought to himself. He had a ‘food for thought’ moment, and considered that maybe this was her chance to shine. The thought was dismissed as easily as it had come. It was a good thing they were so strong as a ‘couple’. The word still sounded foreign coming off of his lips, but he relished every moment he had under the title. He didn’t know whether to tell her or not. But, in all fairness to her, she needed to be notified before the public. ----Jack and Claire unexpectedly, however coincidentally, met in the hall that same night. After running through the dialogue of gently informing her, and running through the dialogue of possibly not-so-gently informing him, they both looked up, Jack blinked a few times, and then he began. “Claire, look, I know we’ve been meaning to talk, and, well, now is just as good a time as ever.” “I’m so glad you agree, Jack. There’s something that I really need to tell you.” The infamous raise of the eyebrow followed. Jack was intrigued by what Claire had to say. “Okay then, you first.” “I know that there’s been a lot of chaos around here these last few days, at least for me anyway. I was just thinking that maybe…” Jack snorted. She had no idea how much chaos there was about to be when he broke the news to her. He proceeded to interrupt her. “Claire, listen. I don’t want this to interfere with our relationship as lawyers. I can’t keep hiding this from you and charading things like this. It’s time for me to come forward with the truth.” Claire cocked her head to one side and paused for a moment as she adopted an air of mock-confusion. He understood how she was feeling and she hadn’t even had to say anything aloud. “You’re right. It would be too uncomfortable to continue in this fashion…this half-baked, pieces of a whole, quarter-truth manner. But Jack! I’m so glad you are aware of my feelings. This makes me feel so much better; knowing you feel the same way.” Now it was Jack’s turn to be confused. “Wait, Claire, you already know. Who told you? Was it the feds?” After a grunt, and a consideration that perhaps that final question might not have been the best accusation to leap to, Jack tried to cover up his error, and continued with, “I’m glad you’re being honest with me and that you want to get to the bottom of everything.” ‘How are the feds involved with this?’ Claire wondered to herself. I didn’t know my relationship with Jack was that public. “Jack. What aren’t you telling me? What do you know that you think I don’t know? Is it about sitting first chair at the case? Or something else?” How did she know? This was insane. Whoever had told her…but wait. If she already knew, that’s obviously not what she wanted to speak to him about. His mind raced through all the signs she had
been giving him the last few days, all their conversations, her body language…damn it for speaking so loudly. He should’ve seen this coming. Becoming intensely defensive, Jack retorted, “No, Claire. I think the question that needs to be asked here is what are you talking about?” ‘He doesn’t feel the same way I do,’ Claire thought. She couldn’t possibly tell him, now that she knew that’s not what he was talking about. There was no way. It would just have to wait. “Never mind, Jack. Perhaps another time.” Exasperated, she stormed out of the building, mumbling over her shoulder, just audible enough to reach Jack’s ears, “We’re through McCoy.” “I know,” he whispered to the emptiness. He unsuccessfully discouraged a single tear from rolling down his stress-chiseled face and watched it hit the floor.
“Narcotics” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, Abbie thought. After four years working the difficult cases, she thought it was time for a change. Abbie knew what she was up against. She realized that the DA and anyone else in his office might not think four years in narcotics could prepare her for anything but a life prosecuting those with concaved noses and Swiss-cheese inner arms. Her fierce litigating strategies combined with her convenient sidesteps around laws needing to be tiptoed through gave her a sharp edge. It was an edge that was sometimes assumed as arrogance. *** Abbie delved into her first case with the DA’s office and made a huge splash. Controversial doors were thrown open and her tactics were questioned. However, at the end of the trial, Jack McCoy was left amused, to say the least. Abbie Carmichael, his new ADA, had a novel way of dealing with cases; her “solution” that would make everyone happy, her high-fiving, and her relentless efforts to see justice served created a vivid picture for him. Whether it was Abbie’s home-style, Texas upbringing, or her four faithful years litigating in the dark corners of narcotics that made her appear to be an excellent lawyer, Jack didn’t know. But he smiled and adopted his infamous “Million-dollar face” as he realized that Abbie had no idea what she was getting herself into.
Serena fell back on her bed and let out a content sigh. The day couldn’t have gone any better; Judge Bradley had denied the idiotic "Motion to Dismiss", Jack had taken her for a spin on his motorcycle followed by an exquisite lunch at a quaint Italian café, and Jack allowed her to cross-examine one of the witnesses. Days like these were precious gems which Serena cherished. Today registered as an elegant, classy ruby. Serena fidgeted, adjusting herself, trying to get more comfortable, and mulled over the day's events. She drank the memories slowly and thoughtfully, just like the red wine she and Jack had shared at lunch... “Only the most luxurious fabrics in stunning hues,” Jack bellowed. “Accessorize her with a Kate Spade and Prada shoes!” Anita commanded. “A facial is in order! To replenish her unparalleled, smooth, luxurious skin, reminiscent of my momma’s pie crusts, and soothe her soul,” Arthur advised fondly. “How ‘bout one of those high-tech Palm…Chauffeur…thingies? That would complete her appear-
ance,” Lennie offered. Ed walked in on the brouhaha, and seeing his affiliates fulfilling her deepest desires, threw in a comment of his own. “Deck her out in the finest bling-bling, yo! I can hook you up, Serena!” Serena was on Cloud Ten (Cloud Nine did not include associates catering to her every need and doting upon her non-stop) and soaking up every moment. She was being fitted for a breathtakingly beautiful dress for the First Annual Change-up Dance. The idea was proposed by Ed and would entail a dance where someone from the DA’s office had to invite someone from the Squad. Secretly, Ed hoped the lovely Serena would bless him with her invitation. One of Anita’s assistants had presented her with an assortment of Kate Spade bags and a line of Prada’s newest shoes. Anita appreciated high-quality designer items and hoped that she had and Serena had that in common. In ten minutes, she would be whisked away in a stretch-motorcycle, compliments of Jack, to fulfill Arthur’s suggested facial. Serena had never had a facial before. Arthur was hoping she would enjoy it as much as he enjoyed those delicious, buttery piecrusts... Adorable Lennie, with his lack of technology knowledge, and confusion between pilots and chauffeurs, was too much for words. She graciously accepted Lennie’s gift and decided to enter him into the address book first. If Lennie found out, he would roll over like a dog yearning to have a belly-rub, and make himself available to satisfy her every whim. Anita wouldn’t approve of that type of behavior; 'Best to keep it a secret,' Serena told herself. In all the confusion, no one saw Serena clench her fists triumphantly and plaster a smile on her face. She was in her element. ‘I knew I was meant to be a queen of somewhere, or an important woman in the public’s eye, or President!’ Serena contemplated. As Jack turned around and approached her, Serena regained her air of dignity and seriousness. “Serena, you are the picture of royalty. You are a princess in a category all your own.” Standing on a marble pedestal, metaphorically and physically, she had a good six inches on Jack. Seductively, she draped her arms around his neck and drew him in close. Jack breathed in sharply. He gingerly moved a luminous strand of blonde perfection out of her face and rested his forehead against hers. Shocked by his reaction, Serena blinked, the image of his pleased face burned on her eyelids, and opened them to find… Jack kneeling down near her bed, his face awfully close to hers, gently nudging her awake. “Jack?” Serena inquired groggily, “What are you doing here? It’s…” she looked at her clock, “just barely 6:30 in the morning.” “We have that meeting in Judge Daniel’s office in an hour. I thought we’d go for some bagels first,” Jack explained. Just her luck, a cursed meeting to remove her from her brilliant dream. “How could I have forgotten?” Serena asked, not bothering to keep sarcasm out of her voice. “Okay, Jack, give me ten minutes to get dressed.” “Of course,” Jack obliged. As he exited her bedroom, he turned around curiously, eyebrow raised.
“What, Jack? I know that face.” Serena commented. “Yes, I am your princess,”. Whom, exactly, was that directed towards?” Serena blushed in more shades of red than the previous day’s ruby-standards and the wine at lunch combined. She rushed to come up with a clever quip, but satisfied the question quickly in her mind. Jack, of all people, should know that a princess never reveals her secrets.
She sat on the bench. It was cold and hard beneath her. She shifted uncomfortably. Sleep was an illusion. Exhaustion had taken over. Awaiting the decision that would change her life was pushing her over the edge. The littlest thing made her jump and tears formed at the corner of her eyes, from fatigue, stress, and anxiety. But holding the tears back, she stayed strong. Somehow, amidst all the apprehension, sleep finally came. She was running, running, running. Just ahead, but always out of reach, was the prize. No matter how fast she ran the dangling reward remained unattainable. She feared for her life. If she slowed down or stopped running all together, the last thing that was precious to her would slowly fade away. She feared for the life of the beloved prize; she must keep running, keep striving, in order to keep the treasure in her life. As she scampered to keep up the relentless pace, her knee gave out. She stumbled, tripped, fell, and the glowing light of the prize ahead dulled into the distance. Her world shattered into a million shards, like broken glass. “No!” she screamed. Uselessly, she stood up and sprinted into the oblivion. Without the incentive of the reward, she was lost. Not knowing which way to run next, she sat down, helpless and confused. Slowly, her new life appeared on a 360o filmstrip. It was dark, an unhappy scene: sixteen-hour days, demanding cases, and no personal days. But even if she were given the day off, there was no one to go home to, to love and hold. Like a silent movie, her future-life played in shades of gray. She saw what an impact the single stumble had made on her life. The images revolted her. It was all about mistakes. She had made one mistake along the way, and it cost her. It cost her the joy, love, and custody of her daughter. For so long, she had fought the good fight, struggled in this battle with this man, only to have it end like this. And just as the symbolic light at the end of the tunnel appeared, she had faltered. It was all over now. There was nothing left for her to do, except watch her daughter grow up without her. The tears that she had always kept back threatened to sharpen the reality of her situation. She felt a hand upon her cheek, felt it wipe away the tears. She looked up and recognized the kind face. The face became real, she woke up and became aware of her surroundings: The cold, hard bench. The enormous room with marble floors and grand pillars. The kind face of a concerned man. “Jamie?” The kind-faced man sat down on the bench next to her. She struggled to keep her composure. “They’re still deliberating.” “You did what you had to. You gave more than enough and did all you could.”
“But, Jack, I made a mistake. I tripped, I fell, and...” she trailed off. “Only in your dreams,” Jack offered. The squeak of a massive wooden door cut the conversation short. “Ms. Ross, please follow me.” Jamie looked at Jack. He nodded at her. “The bigger the effort, the greater the reward,” he spoke, like a Chinese fortune cookie. Jack’s words rang in her ears as she entered the courtroom. For once in her life, she was unsure of the outcome. But as the judge’s lips parted to speak, she was certain of one thing: the silent movie of her dreams would never be a world she allowed herself to live in.
A Rough Fifth
With his drooping eyes and sagging skin, the pup in the cage didn’t have a chance of being taken home. His tail stopped wagging weeks ago and he had a look of “if you touch me, I might break” about him. No bones, toys, or friends, and four inescapable walls. Serena took instant pity. She could appreciate his position: the repetitiveness, the loneliness, those four insurmountable walls. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her job at the DA’s office. It wasn’t by any means boring; she set bail for, and sometimes remanded, murderers, burglars, serial killers and the occasional sociopath run amok, what could be more rewarding than that? And it certainly wasn’t Jack McCoy. He was a wonderful man, an excellent man, an intelligent man. ‘Don’t forget his high conviction rate,’ Serena told herself. She glanced at the pup again. He had fallen asleep on a ratty square of carpet; his left ear flopped over his eye. No, it wasn’t any of that. It was the walled world she was living in. Her predecessors had set unequivocal standards and had bonded incredibly well, and seemingly instantly, with Jack. Most days, she considered herself a rough 5th--Claire, Jamie and Abbie filling the top three prestigious spots and those defense attorneys, Jessica Sheets and Shelley Kates, vying for fourth. The walls were all Serena knew; they kept her in check. They kept her from being the outstanding ADA she knew she could be, from having an airtight relationship with Jack, and from seeing her endless horizons. Her walls were just high enough that when she peered over, all she could make out were the tops of the next set. Past those walls, she saw in black and white; color would allow for details and expansion, both of which were too much to ask for. ‘One day,’ she mumbled quietly, ‘I’ll take down those walls stone by stone and rebuild them lower. That way, whoever is appointed when I leave, can fill a size 6 shoe instead of a size 10. That way, above the sky is the limit and beyond the horizon is where they set their goals.’ She made a promise to herself that she would let no wall be too high to climb and no wall seem too real to break down. The pup was fast asleep. “One day,” she gently told him. “One day.”
Jack’s left ear was tired, exhausted. He felt like putting a miniature nightcap on it and shutting out the world. “...And last night, they had to eat cockroaches. Who would do that? Honestly...” Her pink lips moved incessantly. Jack wondered how one person could talk for so long about some ridiculous reality show. Especially Serena. She had her minor fads, which she would sink her teeth into and obsess over for
a few weeks, like a dog with a hardy bone, but this new show had her devoting an hour of her time every week. An hour better spent drafting motions, writing briefs, and reviewing cases, Jack thought. His head hung low, almost between his knees, but he couldn’t shield his face from Serena’s peripheral vision. A quick burst of air escaped his nose as his shoulders shook with disbelief. “Serena, please. I like to try and obtain a modicum of sanity in my life.” The statement was harsh and grating, but Jack couldn’t keep a straight face. The laugh lines that lit up his cheeks and eyes were dead giveaways. Serena pursed her lips, pouting, and looked genuinely hurt. As the humor slowly crept into Jack’s face, she stared at him until he looked up. “What Serena?” Jack subconsciously adopted the quizzical look, raised eyebrow, tilted head, and waited patiently for her answer. She opened her mouth as if to yell at him, but refrained. When her lips parted the second time, it was a gentler motion. Her face softened and the crease in her brow slowly receded. “Jack, you’re a good lawyer. You’re an even better actor. I know the tumult brewing behind that smile. I know Arthur’s been on your back about this case. Just relax. It’s in the jury’s hands now.” After a pause, “Let’s play a game!” Serena suggested with childish glee. Jack had to suppress a laugh. Serena loved to play games. That was the one thing Jack wished she would hold on to, the thing that set her apart. She was still so young and innocent. “Alright. Just so long as it’s not I Spy. I can’t stand that game. Too many colors.” Serena’s eyes lit up. “Truth or Dare. It’s a classic pastime. Everyone loves it. I’ll go first. Okay, Jack.” Serena seemed to be searching for the right words, “Truth or dare?” Jack pretended to look puzzled as he pondered over the question. Truth or dare? Dare or truth? It was one or the other. “Dare,” he responded carefully. With Serena, anything was possible. While he waited for her to concoct something that was either foolish, embarrassing, or both, Jack noticed the people walking out of the courthouse. The sight was analogous to a winter scene of blanket-bareness. There was such emptiness. Each face a deceiving portrait of mock-sanity, but throw open the shutters and the cold soul, void of emotion, that leaked out was the soul Jack feared lay restlessly within. Too many years he thought. Jack turned to Serena when he heard her voice. “Take off that ridiculous hat. You’re an EADA for God’s sake. Besides, how long have you had it?” Jack should have seen it coming. For years, his precious hat had been the topic of conversation. Succumbing to the dare, Jack removed the hat. He imagined how absurd his hair must look. Even a ride on a night with biting winds could not compare to the damage the hat could do. Serena looked on appreciatively. “There. That’s much better.” She flattened his hair, a motherly gesture, and waited expectantly for her turn. “Truth or,” Jack started. Serena’s love for the game took over as she interrupted him, saying, “Dare. I had already decided.” She flashed a smile. Without saying a word, Jack picked up the woolen hat, discarded on the bench next to him, and placed it atop Serena’s golden head like a crown. “It makes a louder statement when you wear it,” Jack joked. Serena loved this side of Jack. It was the part of him that took over after a case was won and he
celebrated with a scotch, always offering her a glass that always remained untouched. Serena was proud of Jack for not letting his position get to him, egoistically or emotionally. Deciding that a change would help glue the scattered pieces of his pride back together, Jack chose ‘truth’. Apparently, no one ever picked truth. Serena looked genuinely stumped. Instead of asking him a question requiring a truthful answer, Serena ventured with a statement she assumed to be correct. “You’re lonely Jack. And after all these years, you’re beginning to second-guess yourself.” For the second time, Jack’s face betrayed him.
Curled up on the couch with a steaming cup of tea, a Norah Jones novel, and the fire crackling nearby, alone was good. Abbie turned on the TV and lowered the volume to a dull buzz, as background music rather than a distraction. She cracked open the book, took a sip of tea and lost herself in the text. Something was eating away at her thoughts. As she would read a line, a little voice would scream, “What were you thinking?!” and then fade to silence. Abbie knew who it was and why it kept coming back. She tried desperately to push the annoyance out of her mind, but there was no hope. Abbie huffed a sigh. This was ridiculous. If being with Jack all day at work wasn’t enough, he had to haunt her as she was trying to relax at home. As soon as she thought the name ‘Jack’, a new line started tinkering. Like clockwork, with the turn of every page, Abbie heard Jack’s voice say, “You still don’t know a damn thing.” Jack was hammering the messages into her head, making her dizzy with guilt. Abbie imagined if Jack knew the control he had over her, he would laugh, nod his head in that proud way, and agree. He was an incredible mentor and an incredible nuisance. ‘Must be the book,’ Abbie contemplated. She closed it, set it on the coffee table and got up. Walking to her bathroom, she flicked the lights on. Alone was good; alone in the dark wasn’t. As she brushed her teeth, a third melodic line joined the chorus. Abbie laughed derisively. She should be in the Guinness Book of World Records as the only woman to have The Insults of Jack McCoy, the musical, playing in her head. Pulling the covers up around her neck, Abbie prayed for sleep to come quickly. In the obscurity of her bedroom, she felt small. Most people lived for their downtime, their alone time. For Abbie, it was a thing of the past. Alone wasn’t really alone. Since that bastard from law school, Abbie had always had two shadows to worry about. Now, she had three. Even in the comfort of her own home, Jack still had a deathly grip on her. And she couldn’t decide if that scared or excited her.
Cirque du Lapin
Arthur spoke vividly of his childhood as the eggs sizzled on the skillet. Breakfast was his favorite meal. Cooking it and sharing with friends was even better. “So, as I was sayin’, we used to see who could stay on the log the longest. And wouldn’t you know, as soon as I was declared the winner, I fell into that bog face-first.” Arthur paused for dramatic effect, chuckling at himself. “I came up with a face-full of mud and all the guys could do was laugh...” The blonde sitting at his kitchen table looked out of place. More than out of place, she seemed an odd accessory to the room. Furnished elegantly, but not boastingly, the room seemed homey with the woman sitting there. She sighed and fiddled with the fork in front of her. “I wonder if this is real gold or some cheap knock-off,” she pondered. Arthur took the steaming hot eggs off of the stove and set them lovingly on a plate with chocolate-chip pancakes, strawberries, blueberries and nuts. The presentation alone brought a tear of joy to Arthur’s eye. He couldn’t figure out why no one appreciated his cooking. Waiter-style, he brought the two plates to the table. Gently placing one in front of the blonde, and one at the place opposite her, he struck a fork against a glass and announced, “Breakfast, my dear.” The blonde nodded and looked down at her plate. “Looks...great, Arthur.” She had trouble giving compliments. Receiving them was a different story. “Well, thanks! Momma’s home cooking hasn’t failed me yet. I bet you’ll be askin’ for more as soon as you finish that plate!” he said with a wink. For the life of her, she couldn’t figure out why she had agreed to have breakfast at Arthur’s place. Cutting the pancake into a dainty bite-size piece, she brought the food to her lips and chewed thoughtfully. To appease him? “No,” she thought. For the pleasant company? “Not my before-work type, exactly. Besides, my Dolce doesn’t go with this decorum,” she concluded And then, Arthur remembered for her. “So, Serena, when do you want to see my acrobatic rabbits? I taught ‘em a new trick, teeter-totter walking, just for you!”
New York’s Finest
“You six people have been brought here...” Joe Rogan smirked as he began. Sporting a white tank and cotton shorts, Elliot stood, face set in a grimace. In a running suit, Olivia leaned on his shoulder. “You ready, B?” Inanely clad in a prom dress Serena looked condescendingly on her “subjects”. In a suit and tie, Jack looked a tastefully clothed Abbie in the eye. “Bring it,” she growled, as she flexed her muscles. “Forty-nine...fifty,” Ed grunted as he finished his crunches. His chiseled abs glistened in the sun. “New York’s finest?” Joe queried. As Elliot and Olivia kissed, Serena knighted Ed, and Jack and Abbie arm-wrestled, he sighed. “I’ll say.”
The Last Goodbye
Dear You, I’ll miss the way our hands entwined perfectly together. I’ll think of you as I sit in a foreign chair, trying to get comfortable, while reading our favorite comic strip. But when I laugh, it won’t ring true. And you won’t be there to laugh with me. At night, I’ll miss your warm body, breathing peacefully next to mine; the comfort you brought me, the solace you relentlessly offered. The secrecy of our relationship, the danger and excitement it brought...it was all worth it in the end. Wasn't it?
It’s Not Unusual
He was rushing, pushing his way through the busy streets of Manhattan, trying to find a clear path. He felt suffocated by the masses surrounding him. For once, he wasn’t in control. It was a frightening feeling. A right, a left, two blocks down, another right. He had memorized the directions in such a way that he could walk the route in his dreams. His hand felt heavy as he knocked on her door. Her bright blue eyes stared into his, searching. “Elliot?” she asked tentatively. “Counselor...Alex. Olivia needs you.”
Two hearts, tangled as one
Alex’s pale cheek rested in the crook of Olivia’s arm. It was beautiful how perfectly her head fit when she placed it just so. It was one of the little things they both found meaningful; company for one, security for the other. Olivia carefully moved Alex’s hair from her face and kissed her eyes. Olivia let Alex’s heartbeat become her own. Leaning on her free elbow, Olivia stared at Alex, enveloped by her unassuming grace. Looking away for a moment, Olivia massaged her neck. Slowly, both women smiled; one because their position was forbidden, the other because the danger made it feel so right.
Her silent, still reflection
The glass shattered. Deep burgundy quickly spread across the floor. As Olivia bent down to gather the broken pieces, she saw Alex’s reflection. Her silent beauty filled the room, reverberated off the walls, and echoed back to Olivia’s ears. She would’ve traveled to hell and back for one last embrace, for the real thing instead of a picture. Behind salty tears, Olivia burned the last image of Alex into her mind so that when she looked in the mirror, glanced in a pond, walked through a puddle she would see a reflection not her own, but that of the woman she could never have.
When good games go bad
The sight of the squadroom would’ve forced anyone to shield his or her eyes. The detectives were sitting cross-legged in a circle, with tinsel in their hair (for Fin, his ponytail) and a jolly twinkle in their eyes. Olivia leaned over to Elliot and whispered into his ear, “I love Alex. She has not a clue.” Giggling, she watched anxiously as her declaration traveled around the circle. Munch knocked himself over, as he was overcome by fits of laughter. Cragen was last in the circle. He stood up. His mouth opened automatically and before the words made sense, he stated profoundly, “I’ll have Alex. We can have Kahlua.”
I’d always wanted a fancy wedding: a three-tier cake, flowing gown, and hundreds of glowing faces filling the pews. A familiar saying played through my head like a broken record as I cleaned up for the night. Something old... “I want to get married in the church I went to as a girl...” Something new... “...in a brand-new, pearly-white dress...” Something borrowed... “...carrying silk flowers from Elliot and Kathy’s wedding.”
Something blue... I opened the bottom drawer of my desk and there it was. The hidden picture of Alex I kept for the lonely nights. Her piercing blue eyes stared at me. She was the missing piece.
Olivia handed Alex a plain brown box with a single ribbon tied around it. “It’s an early birthday present,” she stated matter-of-factly. Alex carefully untied the ribbon. Olivia’s eyes grew wide with anticipation. “Hurry up! Before crying bundles of joy land on my doorstep, please!” Olivia pleaded. Alex made a point of opening the package slowly and deliberately, delighting in Olivia’s anticipation. Alex removed the cover and peeked inside. “It’s a…” she trailed off, confused. “Hat? A winter hat. With a…plush duck sewn on the top of it…” Alex’s giggly ‘I love it! I love you!’s caused mass-hysteria and countless episodes of rolling on the floor with laughter, much to Olivia’s delight.
Elliot walked into Casey’s office for his routine goodbye. ‘Just to let her know I’m leaving,’ he reassured himself. When he saw the state the office was in, he blinked. Shuddered. Blinked again. Before him was a scene of mock-disgust. Olivia was giggle-singing a tune that sounded dreadfully close to “…a pirate’s life for me…”, while Casey was cradling Olivia’s head full of matted hair. Casey seemed so alive with Olivia in her arms and Olivia seemed so content to be there. God how Elliot hated it when Olivia drank.
Two minutes. That would be the perfect temperature. Olivia had loved soup for longer than she could remember. The warm steam rising up from the bowl calmed her. Still fully clothed, Olivia began removing her layers while waiting for the somewhat obnoxious beeps from the microwave. She tossed her badge on the kitchen counter, undid her jacket buttons and kicked off her shoes. She looked back at her badge and cocked her head to one side. Her badge was a blatant reminder of one of her greatest losses. Olivia wondered where Alex was, how she was doing, and how much longer she would have to work with the new, seemingly-incompetent ADA, before Alex could be removed from the program. Three consecutive beeps tore her away from her thoughts. Olivia removed the steaming hot soup from the microwave and set it down, not-too-gently, on the table. It sloshed over the side and burned the tip of her thumb. She swore at herself. This distraction was enough to drive anyone to become an introvert. Unwillingly, Olivia let her mind wander back to Alex. She could picture Alex lying there on the cold pavement, staring straight up. Olivia felt so helpless that night. Her mind drifted back through all of her Alex files; first meeting the young ADA, sitting in court countless times while Alex prosecuted a depraved rapist, going to bars after hours and seeing how the other half lives. Coming out of her stupor, Olivia lifted the metal spoon to her mouth and slurped in a mouthful of soup. It was cold. Colder than Alex’s crimson-stained shoulder. Once again, Alex had robbed her.
“I know I’m no Alex, but if something’s wrong you can talk to me. Olivia? Are you listening to me?” Olivia sat slumped against the wall, head resting on her hands. ‘Go away,’ she thought. As if the recent haul of depraved rapes weren’t enough, Casey was trying to warm up to her. She could sense that Casey’s intentions were noble, but assumed that the details would fly way over her head. Casey was their ADA, but certainly not the resident genius. *** ‘If I could only get her to let all those protective layers fall away and lower that defensive wall,’ Casey mused. Olivia was an extremely talented detective and something was upsetting her. Casey could tell that much. She had never met her predecessor, Alex Cabot, but had heard enough about her from Olivia, Elliot, Munch, Fin, the Captain and everyone else’s lives she had touched, to paint a glowing picture. Casey didn’t want to intrude on Olivia’s reverie, and was therefore confined to the office space around the corner. She heard a faint thud, thud, thud and could almost visualize Olivia drumming her head against the wall. Olivia was dulling right before her eyes. Casey couldn’t let past memories be responsible. Olivia needed someone to talk to. Casey ventured into the unknown, “Olivia, I know you may not think of me as a friend, but you can trust me. If there is something going on…” Olivia interrupted, “There’s always something going on, Casey. Rapists striking for a second, third, fourth time, babies dying thirty minutes after getting to the hospital, fathers beating their daughters, seeing Alex…” Olivia stopped herself. That was the second time she had almost let her mouth get the best of her. “Listen, Casey, I know you’re just trying to be helpful and make a good impression, but I have Elliot, Munch, Fin, even the Captain if I need to talk.” ‘I try and try but nothing works,’ Casey thought miserably. She turned away from Olivia’s wall of refuge and headed for the door. As Olivia heard Casey’s retreating footsteps, she offered a final remark, “Thanks, though.” A brief smile played across Casey’s features. Maybe Olivia was ready to open up, shed her protective layers, and lower her protective wall. If not, this was a small step in the right direction, nonetheless.
More Than Enough
“Yes. Councilor and I have seen each other a few times outside of our work atmosphere.” Olivia looked down into her lap. Feeling shamed, she didn’t dare raise her head, submitting herself to the scrutiny of those unforgiving eyes. Almost automatically, Olivia stepped down when she heard, “No further questions.” She exited the courtroom and found an empty marble bench. The marble chilled her and sent goosebumps up and down her arms. But compared to the icy berating she knew was inevitable, the bench was a warm welcome. On cue, Alex pushed open the door of the courtroom, blonde hair whipping around her face. ‘It wasn’t windy in there,’ Olivia thought to herself. When the rational voice within regained control, she realized the severity of the situation. Alex’s heels banged against the floor. She was almost running at her, fierce with indignation and ready to explode.
Alex sat down, none-too-gently, next to Olivia and angled herself so as to block their conversation. “How. dare. you? What gave you the right? You just blew my whole case. Now that the jury thinks I’m sleeping around with the detectives I have no chance of a conviction,” Alex whispered harshly, her voice audible only to the woman next to her. Her breath came in ragged gulps. Alex let only two things irk her in this manner--particularly depraved defendants, and exposure of any sort. For as long as Olivia had known her, Alex had had secrets. She was inhumanly adept at keeping them hidden, as well. Olivia had figured out three or four on her own, since Alex never served facts on a golden platter to anyone. Olivia supposed it was because of Alex’s job. If she ever slipped up, she, never mind her boss, would never forgive herself. However, their private relationship was the metaphorical two-way street. Alex knew. Olivia knew. Alex had been able to keep control over the matter for herself, despite moments where Elliot seemed to suspect more, but Olivia was a wild bull. She was unpredictable, spontaneous, knew all the right tricks, and those who aggravated her got what she thought they deserved in triplicate. Alex would never let the words escape her mouth, nor did she think Olivia would. But there, just in that courtroom, Olivia had told the whole world. “I-I...Alex, you have to understand,” Olivia trailed off. She knew words were useless right now. Like trying to stop a point-blank gunshot wound with a band-aid. Alex would have her fuss, like usual, and then the tempest would pass. “No, Olivia, not this time. This time you took it too far,” Alex accused. “What could I have done? Did you want me to lie under oath?” Olivia hissed. This was getting out of hand. It was almost as if Alex had blatantly decided to ignore the fact that the defense had called Olivia as a witness. “Couldn’t you have beaten around the bush? Muddied up the waters a little? For Christ’s sake, Olivia, you didn’t even hesitate.” “Look, Alex, I only said we had seen each other a few times. That could be dinner, some drinks; any normal conduct for two people working on the same case. It’s not like I snatched the blanket off of a huge conspiracy and waited for the audience to gasp, ‘Oooh. Aaah,’ and you know it.” “Maybe you did,” Alex replied with a huff. She walked away without turning around. Olivia watched her retreating figure travel down the courthouse steps. ‘I don’t know what it is about you, Alex. It’s either never enough, or ridiculous overkill, but I keep coming back for more.’
Shades of Laughter
“Just relax. It’ll come naturally. It always does,” Olivia coaxes. “No. I can’t. Not this time,” comes the reply. Olivia shivers. There is no warmth here. From the table, to the floor, to either of the women’s faces, bitterness downplays everything. But it is always cold in here. In this room where light is artificial, wood is replaced by steel, and unkempt isn’t a vocabulary word.
This is a routine meeting. Once a week, sometimes twice, Olivia comes to see her. And each week, everything goes off without a hinge. Olivia gets what she needs and her partner feels proud to contribute. Even though the circumstances are the same, something is holding Olivia’s other half back this time. Olivia tries coaching her again. “Just take some deep breaths. Close your eyes and focus.” Olivia uses her most calming, soothing voice, in hopes of reassurance. “I can’t open it far enough. I don’t know what the matter is. Nothing like this has ever happened. I’m so sorry Olivia. I’ve never let you down before and I want to do this right,” she sighs. After a pause, she leans in and pleads, “Even if it takes all night.” Olivia offers a kiss on the cheek as incentive. Her perfume is intoxicating. Olivia’s partner breathes the rich scent in, exhales deeply, and tries to shake off her nerves. Olivia leans away, a coy smile playing at the corners of her mouth. “You always have to do that, don’t you? Right when I’m in the middle of something; trying so hard, just for you,” the other woman accuses. Olivia’s innocent, tinkling laugh slices her heart. “You know you like it.” Several minutes pass before the other woman speaks. As she picks up the appropriate instruments, she pronounces boldly, “Okay. I’m ready to try again.” “Well I sure am glad, Warner. I wouldn’t want to see a dead body get the best of you.” Melinda’s laugh is much more derisive, “Never, Liv. That’s for you.”
Poised like a cat on the prowl, ever watchful and fiercely alert, she sits at the large wooden table. She’s gorgeous you think to yourself as you watch her stand up and button her jacket. Her neatly combed hair, not a strand out of place, drives you crazy. You imagine the way it would feel beneath your fingers. She speaks. For now, the tinkling melody of her voice draws you in. You hear she has erratic mood swings. She looks back as she makes reference to you. A smile is barely apparent, but you see it nonetheless. It was charming, borderline seductive. You also hear she gets what she wants. Her flawless skin is the shines with the pale radiance of pre-dawn. You can sense its smooth texture. Your fingers remember holding that face, ever so gently, as she broke down at the office, needing comfort not love. Her façade does not trick you. You know the beauty within; you can appreciate it. As her attention shifts back to the man in front of her, your heart speeds up as your eyes travel down her legs. You savor every delicious inch as though covering those heavenly limbs were a crime (As it should be, you think). The forbidden desire has been unleashed. You can’t have her, you realize inwardly. Your heart pangs, without consent, as the enormity of your revelation hits. She could never love you. She’s not that type. You struggle not to lose control.
She is a queen. The aura that surrounds her silky blonde head is a crown enough for you. The curious blue of her eyes is your new favorite color. You notice how perfectly her skirt sits on her hips, how her jacket accentuates her heavenly curves, how she pays attention to her body, takes good care of herself. Her whole being is twice more woman than you ever dreamed existed. Your delicate heart cannot take it. Quietly, you exit the courtroom. You blow a wisp of brown hair out of your eyes and walk to escape- -her natural, unforced beauty, her striking features, her vise-grip on your heart and her control over your mind. She is an extraordinary creature, worthy of pursuance. You slip into your car. Your hand routinely turns on the radio as you seek rapidly, not lighting on a specific station. Your hear strains of a familiar song, and allow the melody to fill the car. The smooth, soul-filled voice reaches your ears, teasing. “Such a funny thing for me to try to explain, How I'm feeling and my pride is the one to blame. 'Cuz I know I don't understand, Just how your love can do what no one else can... Got me lookin’ so crazy in love. “Alex, I’m dangerously in love with you,” you profess. Your only hope is that she hears your proclamation, not with her ears, but with her heart.
When you think the house is quiet and you’re all alone, I creep down the stairs. I’m checking on you. You haven’t been yourself lately. I know why. I can see it in your eyes when I sit next to you at dinner, when you talk to me, when you hug me goodnight. I can sense the fiery anger and the confusion; the anger that makes you such an intense detective and the confusion that keeps you human. I see how it hurts you. You’ve been at this for so long without a flaw and all of a sudden, your world is turned upside down. You feel violated. I can feel it when you squeeze my hand goodbye each morning. I imagine you sit alone on the couch every night and wonder why it happened to you. Why he had to shoot you, why you’re temporarily paralyzed, and why you can’t be out there catching filth like him. I know your mind is always racing. Your eyes flit hastily around the room and your sentences are concise. You were always so easy to read. I try to let you know that I still love you, but you seem so distant. Everyone at school asks me how you’re doing. I never know what to say. I wish this had never happened to you. Faintly, a tune carries up to the top stair and reaches my ears. Tonight, you’re sitting on the floor, your back against the last step. I silently tiptoe down four more stairs. The last stair creaks. You turn around. “Maureen?” you ask quizzically, blinking, as if you’re not expecting me. I take the rest of the stairs two at a time and fling my arms around you. You know I know what’s on your mind, but you don’t seem angry. Not at me, at least. I squeeze you with all the strength I have. I want you to know how much
you mean to me. “I love you, Dad,” I say with pride. Because I am proud. You’re the most incredible person I know. You’ve always been there for me, even when I was distant as a young teenager, but now it’s my turn to be strong for you. Your mouth can’t form a response, but the single, wet tear that hits my shoulder is all the thanks I need.
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