DISCLAIMER: Law and Order, Law and Order: TBJ and SVU, and all characters are the properties of NBC and Dick Wolf. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for the FemSlash Advent Calendar:: Dog Days of Summer 2009. Special thanks to the amazing Deb for another outstanding, last minute, beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

A Fairytale End
By Ann


"What do you mean Chelsea's going to be at your party?"

Serena Southerlyn flipped the setting of her stove from medium to off and moved her new Teflon skillet to a back burner as bits of ham and cheese floated aimlessly in a yellowish egg mixture. She'd lost her appetite the moment she heard her ex's name.

"Er, well, you see," started Alex Cabot on the other end of the line, running a hand through her hair and nervously pacing back and forth in front of her desk. She'd made a colossal mistake, and although it had been purely accidental and a totally inconceivable one at that, she figured Serena wouldn't see it that way. "I invited Tina, one of my legal aides who has been extremely helpful to me since my return, and told her she could bring a date. She just happened to mention this morning that her girlfriend, Chelsea, um… Roberts… a flight attendant, would be back in the city for the weekend."

Alex had figured the odds of another Chelsea Roberts, one who wasn't Serena's ex and one who also just happened to be a flight attendant with a home base in New York was entirely too astronomical to calculate. She'd snatched up the phone and immediately called to relay the bad news to her friend and to beg for forgiveness even though she knew she hadn't been at fault.

Clutching the phone tightly in her fist, Serena stared down at her ruined omelet. She'd not been able to make a decent omelet for months after her rather volatile breakup with Chelsea. The other woman's face would always appear in the mixing bowl, her matter-of-fact declaration one morning, following a long, glorious night of lovemaking, that she'd been sleeping with other women during her many travels and her nonchalant suggestion that Serena should do the same would replay over and over until Serena had violently whisked the mixture into tiny bubbles and then into a yellow foam before she'd realized what she was doing. And now, her perfect omelet lay in ruins at the bottom of her skillet, and, once again, it was all Chelsea's fault.

"Then count me out." Snatching the handle of the skillet, Serena walked over to the sink, poured the liquid down the drain, and tossed the metal skillet into the empty sink; the loud sound of metal against metal causing Alex to jump and jerk the receiver from her ear. She eased it back just in time to hear Serena's next words. "You can find someone else to help you prepare the appetizers and mix the drinks."

Alex proceeded cautiously even though the appetizers had already been prepared and Olivia was the one who always mixed the drinks. "Serena, Chelsea knows we're best friends."

"So," Serena countered, knowing she sounded childish but not able to help herself. At one time, she'd thought Chelsea was the real deal, the one she'd spend the rest of her life with, the one she'd sit next to on a porch swing of a quaint country cottage late into her twilight years and reminisce with about the good old days. She'd had no idea Chelsea had already been engaging in her own form of 'swinging.'

"She's going to ask about you. Wonder where you are." Alex stopped her pacing and moved to her chair. She leaned back against the cool leather and waited patiently for her friend's reply.

"Let her ask," Serena said, a barely concealed anger seeping into her tone. "Tell her I've been fired; she'll get a kick out of that." She laughed bitterly. Chelsea had nagged and nagged her about leaving the DA's office to start her own, more lucrative practice, citing that the rich scumbags of the city needed representation, too, and who better to prosper from their illegal gains than Serena. And, of course, by the natural extension of their partnership… Chelsea.

"I've got a better idea." Alex leaned forward and rested her elbows on her desk, readying to present her case of deception. "Why don't you show up with some hottie on your arm and tell her yourself?" She paused just long enough for Serena to consider her words, before revealing her true intent. "Or better yet, bring someone easy on the eyes and brilliant, someone with class and style that can hold her own against Chelsea and then some. Don't let her win, Serena."

The idea sounded quite appealing to Serena, especially as she'd always wanted to get back at Chelsea in much the same way as Alex had proposed, but there was a huge and glaring problem with Alex's suggestion.

"And just where am I supposed to find this wonder woman?"

Alex leaned back in her chair and smiled.

Shifting her weight from one high heel to the other, Serena kept track of the tiny square-shaped lights above the elevator doors, illuminating one right after the other, as the car moved from floor to floor.

"This is nuts… this is nuts… this is nuts," she muttered under her breath, her nervousness increasing tenfold when a soft ding sounded, indicating that she'd reached her floor. Inhaling sharply, she stepped from the elevator and walked toward the end of the hallway, hoping her outward appearance projected much more confidence than she actually felt. If she survived her impending bout of embarrassment and possible humiliation, she was going to kill Alex for forcing her into this position in the first place, even though she knew the almost surreal situation with Chelsea had actually stemmed from fate and its rather twisted sense of humor.

Behind a solid cherry desk, a young brunette woman looked up and smiled. "May I help you?"

"Yes, I have an appointment with Tracey Kibre," replied Serena, grateful that she hadn't recognized the administrative assistant. She'd been hesitant to return to the building she'd known for so many years as her home away from home, but thus far, she'd only run into a handful of people who she'd felt obligated to address. A few polite greetings later had her standing just outside the door of her final destination.

"Oh yes, Ms. Southerlyn; Ms. Kibre is expecting you," the exuberant woman said, her smile broadening as she pushed to her feet. "If you'll just follow me, please."

Serena stifled a moan and pasted on a smile for the assistant. She'd been so busy rehearsing what she planned to say to Tracey that she hadn't given a thought as to what Alex may have already said to pave the way. She prayed that the old adage – and the truth shall set you free – held some truth of its own.

"Ms. Kibre? Ms. Southerlyn is here," the able assistant announced, her hand resting on a doorknob as she ducked her head inside a nearby office. Serena took a moment to glance through the barely opened blinds covering the window that looked into Tracey's office, the slats set at an almost impossible angle to get a clear view inside. She squinted slightly to see past the wooden impediment until the form of the ADA slowly swam into focus, an expression that was far from happy set firmly on the other woman's features.

"Lost? How in the hell does one lose a murder weapon?" Tracey's shout threatened to shake the glass free from its sturdy wooden enclosure, and Serena took an involuntary step back, glancing over her shoulder and contemplating if perhaps she should reschedule her appointment. The party wasn't until 8:00, after all. She had plenty of time to ask Tracey if she'd be willing to play the part of her date – a good 10 hours in fact or, she thought more favorably, she could just forget the whole thing and leave the city for a month or two.

"Ms. Kibre will be with you in a minute," said the perky administrative assistant, not showing an ounce of fear as she pushed the door fully open and gestured Serena inside. "You can go right in and have a seat."

Serena moved her gaze from the door to the assistant and wondered if the woman was incredibly brave, extremely stupid, or just plain slow. Opting for a variation of all three, she eased closer and nodded at the assistant as she took a tentative step inside. Dark eyes immediately tracked toward her and froze her on the spot. She now knew firsthand how a deer, caught in the bright headlights of a car, felt right before the vehicle ran him over.

"Chris, just find the damned gun before Monday's opening statements!" Tracey slammed the phone down in its cradle and blew out an exasperated breath. The missing murder weapon played a pivotal part in her slam dunk case.

"Um, looks like you've got a big problem on your hands." Serena was practically wringing hers as she stood stock-still just inside the doorway. "We can reschedule for another time."

A smirk slowly made its way past Tracey's deep frown, her wrinkled brow and stern expression morphing into a look of pure smugness. "Has the party been cancelled?"

"Alex told you." Blue eyes instinctively slammed closed and an audible sigh escaped. Serena placed a mental check next to embarrassment and readied her pretend pencil for the box labeled humiliation.

Tracey pushed her chair away from her desk and re-crossed her very toned, very sexy legs. "You didn't think I'd agree to a last second appointment on a Friday morning without knowing whom I was meeting with." Placing her elbows on the arms of her chair, she rested her chin on the tips of steepled fingers. "Naturally when I heard it was you, I asked a few more questions."

Slowly opening her eyes to study the clearly amused woman, Serena's gaze momentarily drifted to legs that she'd dreamt of on more than one occasion. She'd been enamored with Tracey Kibre for years, more so after her breakup with Chelsea, but she never had the guts to approach the rather mysterious and, oftentimes, intimidating woman. Flirty one second and all business the next, Serena had no idea if Tracey was straight, gay, or perhaps a little of both.

"Well?" asked Tracey, her voice dropping to its lowest register. The smooth, silky, and extremely sexy tone sent shivers down Serena's spine and a decided warmth a tiny bit lower. Tracey looked just like the proverbial cat that had eaten the canary, her demeanor so closely resembling the saucy Bombalurina, it was uncanny. Serena suddenly had an overwhelming desire to become a small yellow feathered bird.

"Um," she started, uncharacteristically tongue-tied, although a very appropriate response considering the various acrobats she'd just imagined of Tracey's talented tongue. She reached down deep inside, and with flushed cheeks, a rapid pulse, and elevated respiration, she remembered her intentions to just state the truth. "I need a favor from you."

Tracey slowly and methodically re-crossed her legs, grinning slightly when Serena tracked her movement. "Alex mentioned as much, but she didn't go into any details. Care to elaborate?"

Serena lifted her gaze and fastened on Tracey's amused expression. The ADA was having far too much fun and all at Serena's expense. "You seem to know about the party," she said, stalling until she could determine exactly how much Tracey knew of Alex's plan to portray Serena in a loving relationship, a relationship as strong as any other and one that went much deeper than the one she'd shared with Chelsea.

"As a matter of fact, I've known about the party for a while. Alex asked me a couple of weeks ago." Tracey had been pleased that Alex had included her, but she'd had reservations about attending her first party given by the returning ADA. Watching Alex and Olivia and the other couples who were in a happy relationship would only serve as a reminder for what she wanted and didn't have. On the other hand, she wasn't exactly looking forward to having Alex and Olivia's single friends make a play for her either. Serena, however, was the lone exception, even if Jack McCoy's former assistant had never shown any interest.

"Oh," Serena stuttered slightly, taken aback by Tracey's revelation. Alex hadn't bothered to mention that particular tidbit in the various conversations she and Serena had shared in the past two weeks. Her thoughts came to a complete standstill and stayed focused on the obvious oversight. Why hadn't Alex told her that she'd invited Tracey?

"Look," said Tracey, keeping her tone light. She'd watched Serena become unnerved and then look confused. Playing with the younger woman had suddenly lost its appeal. "Alex indicated that you needed my help tonight. What do you need me to do?"

Serena slowly returned to the present and refocused on Tracey's question. Could it possibly be this easy? She gazed over at the other woman and found what, to all intents and purposes, appeared to be sincerity, something she'd never personally witnessed before from Tracey. Snarkiness, yes, fierceness, definitely, but sincerity, not to her knowledge.

Taking a deep breath, Serena hoped she hadn't been seeing things.

"Would you be my date for Alex's party?"

"How late did Tracey say she'd be?" Alex placed the last canapé on a decorative glass serving tray and shifted her attention to an empty crystal bowl. She winced at the thought of refilling the family heirloom with beer nuts, but Olivia had been adamant about having at least one appetizer of her own. Alex had compromised by insisting that she get to choose the container, although it had only provided a small consolation to her every time she'd had to refill it.

Removing another double old fashioned from a cabinet, Serena shrugged, feigning indifference that Tracey hadn't yet arrived at the party that was now in full swing, her pretend 'partner' having called earlier to say that she'd be delayed. "She just said that something had come up, but that she'd definitely be here." If Tracey didn't turn up soon, Serena planned to use the excuse of a sudden migraine and leave, and with the pain that was rapidly blossoming behind her eyes, she wouldn't have to lie either.

"She'd damned well better show up soon. Chelsea's been harping on you ever since she arrived. I don't know how you've kept from knocking that smug grin from her face." Alex slid the bowlful of nuts toward Serena and slipped her hands underneath the canapé tray. "Forget Liv's glasses. If we don't hurry up and get back to the party, I'm afraid my usually cool, calm, and collected detective will have rearranged Chelsea's face for you."

Abandoning the double old-fashions Olivia had asked her to retrieve, Serena reached for the bowl of nuts, hesitating momentarily to consider if a few precious seconds were indeed all that were needed to ensure that Alex's fears would come true. Besides, Serena figured she'd probably have enough dirt on Chelsea to keep Olivia safe from any potential charges.

"Serena? You coming?" Alex called back over her shoulder, stopping just short of the kitchen doorway and unknowingly tugging Serena from her thoughts just before Olivia's fist could slam into Chelsea's botoxed lips.

"Yeah, I'm right behind you," Serena half-answered, half-sighed. The mental image of Olivia decking her ex had been flicked into darkness as if Alex had pushed the off button on a remote control. The screen had gone to black before she could blink.

"You should've seen the look on Serena's face," Chelsea cackled loudly, her laugh just as irritating to everyone as it had been when she'd first arrived, pushing and shoving herself into the center of attention. "You'd have thought I'd told her that her best friend had died."

The room became instantly still with the exception of Chelsea's chuckles as everyone, even Tina, purposely avoided eye contact with Serena or Alex, Olivia too, for that matter. Alex's fake death had been hard on everyone, but none more so than her best friend and her lover. Olivia had, at least, had the luxury of finding out later that Alex had survived the shooting and was alive and well, although it certainly hadn't made it any easier knowing the possibility existed that she'd never see Alex again. If her gaze across the short distance to where Chelsea sat had been loaded, the bullets she shot across the room at the buxomly brunette would've hit their mark and killed Chelsea on the spot.

"What?" Chelsea asked, finally noting that no one seemed to be amused by her poke at her former lover. "You can't make me believe that no one else in this room has found a little something on the side."

Olivia reached for the small of her back and the gun that wasn't there, Alex reflexively grabbed her lover's hand just in case Olivia was packing elsewhere, Serena looked just as hurt as she had when Chelsea had first confessed about her deception, and the rest of the partygoers just stared in disbelief that a total stranger had made such an outlandish statement. A deathly silence grew and grew until a voice from the doorway shattered the tense moment.

"Some of us are more than happy with what we have. Maybe the problem lies with you." No one had seen Tracey enter, but they were all certainly aware of her presence now. "They say people who are sorely lacking in different areas try to compensate for their missing talents one way or another. I have to wonder if your 'little something on the side' came away from your illicit tryst unfilled and needing more – something you just weren't capable of giving."

Tracey dismissed Chelsea as if Serena's ex had been some irritating gnat she'd just swatted under her fist and immediately turned her attention to the far side of the room and the blonde who stood alone. A bright smile lit her face, and she quickly closed the distance between the two of them, easing in next to Serena's side and slipping an arm around the other woman as she drew her into an embrace. She leaned in closer and closer, looking directly into clear blue eyes, until lips met, softly at first and then more firmly as Tracey deepened the kiss. To all who witnessed, it appeared as if the couple was very familiar with each other and had been sharing intimate kisses for years.

"Sorry I'm late," Tracey said softly after gently releasing the lips she'd held captive. "Found the gun." A huge grin crossed her face and transferred itself over to Serena until both women were beaming. There was no sign of any discomfort or fake emotions following their kiss or with the natural ease in which Tracey slid her hand into Serena's.

"So, Chris came through. I guess idle threats really do work," Serena teased, figuring that Tracey's threats were anything but idle. She certainly wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of one of Tracey's directives, unless of course the two of them were wearing something far more comfortable and didn't have an audience.

"You of all people should know," Tracey replied with a gleam in her eye, staying in character for her role. This was the most fun she'd had in quite awhile. Not to mention the fact that Serena was one helluva kisser. "At least I've never heard you complain before." She winked saucily and ran a manicured fingernail gently along Serena's cheek, drawing a rich laugh from her 'partner.'

"You're kidding," Chelsea said in an amazed tone, having finally snapped out of her stupor at discovering that not only did Serena actually have a lover, but that apparently the woman had claws, very sharp ones in fact. "Serena always balked at anything I suggested."

"Are you referring to all the times you wanted to tie me up and fit a leather mask over my head that barely had air holes, while you flogged me with one of those master floggers with like 80 tails on it?"

The room fell into a complete and utter silence at Serena's words as everyone, hostesses and guests alike, took a page out of Olivia's book and shot daggers at Chelsea. Serena hadn't told a soul, not even Alex, about her ex's request to top the inexperienced Serena in a very big way, going directly to a heavy duty flogger and expecting Serena to bow to her wishes. Just the thought of using something to purposely scar Serena's fair skin made Tracey sick.

"That's where you failed, Chelsea. You didn't take Serena's wishes into consideration; you were selfish." She squeezed Serena's hand reassuringly. "Neither Serena nor I feel the need to top the other. We give and take without a second thought. That's what a true relationship is based on: what both parties want."

A wave of bobbing heads and occasional 'you got that right' worked around the room in support of Tracey's very passionate speech, everyone seeming to forget that Tracey and Serena weren't actually a couple. One person in particular, who hadn't been privy to the two women's non-relationship, took the words to heart.

"You said everyone you've ever dated has willingly allowed you to whip them," Tina said softly, scooting as far away from Chelsea as she possibly could. "You said 'swinging' was what everyone did, too. You lied?"

"Yes, she did. I never allowed her to flog me, which is probably why she started sleeping around. I was stupid enough to believe she loved me," Serena answered before Chelsea could formulate a reason that would rationalize her actions to Tina. The naive woman deserved to know the truth. "Chelsea is incapable of love."

"And you think love's a fairytale where the good little girl always gets the beautiful Queen," scoffed Chelsea. "I got news for you, Serena; there isn't such a thing as a fairytale ending. Something always comes along to destroy it."

"Not in my book," countered Serena. "In my book, there is nothing that can stop true love." She spared a quick glance at Alex and Olivia, two women who had defied all odds and had found their way back to each other. "In my book, every beginning has an equal chance of moving forward and growing stronger with each new chapter. The happy ending is within everyone's grasp if they simply allow the story to chart its own course and willingly sacrifice whatever it takes to reach that final page."

Chelsea threw her head back and laughed – alone. "What a load of crap. You can't seriously believe that." She glanced around the room for someone – anyone – who felt the same way as she did but was only met with looks of deep contemplation. "Oh, get serious people! It's a fairytale for God's sake!"

"You know, I've always been rather fond of fairytales, even the Brothers Grimm. How about you, Lena?" Liz Donnelly had sat back and quietly watched the entertainment play out during the evening, although being a bit surprised by the passionate kiss shared by Serena and Tracey. But she'd had all she could take of the obnoxious newcomer.

"I'd always hoped that they were true, especially after what we have to deal with on a daily basis," Lena Petrovsky replied, raising her glass slightly toward her friend and colleague. She gestured toward Tracey and Serena. "And after tonight, I'm going to choose to believe that they are."

"You people are nuts. C'mon, Tina, let's get the hell out of here." Chelsea pushed to her feet and stormed toward the door, expecting her date to follow, but when she got to the door, she stood alone. "Fine, you can stay here with the rest of the losers. Have a nice life in Never-Never-Land." Glancing one last time at Serena, she turned and left, slamming the door behind her.

"Well," drawled Tracey with a slight chuckle. "Now that the wicked witch of the west is out of the way, what do you say we get this party rolling? I need a drink!"

The room erupted in laughter as Olivia grabbed a bottle of rum and motioned the ADA over. Tracey laughed and gently squeezed Serena's hand, before reluctantly letting go and starting across the room. She and Alex crossed paths and shared a smile.

"So, that was quite a kiss," whispered Alex as she drew closer to Serena. "You didn't even flinch or act the least bit surprised. If I didn't know any better, I'd say the two of you had kissed before."

"What they say is true, Alex, even in fairytales."

"What? Beginner's luck?"

"Nope, practice makes perfect." Serena smiled across the room at Tracey. "And lots of practice makes it all worthwhile."

The End

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