DISCLAIMER: Paula is mine, but the rest are not. The L Word and all it entails belong to Ilene Chaiken and Showtime.
SPOILERS: The first season. I takes place immediately after the final episode, and was written without looking at season two spoilers.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wasn't sure about Clea's age, so I've written her as being around 17.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Fall and the Getting Back Up
By Gret

Chapter One

As Shane slouched into the bar she felt an odd sense of familiarity. The bar was not exactly stylish, but practical, and the lighting was dark enough to be able to slip quietly into a booth at the back and into anonymity if desired. An old wooden bar ran along one side, faded towels soaked in lost drops of alcohol hiding the stains and chips of much use. It smelt of stale beer and even staler cigarettes, the familiar smell putting the first smile on her face since she had glimpsed Cherie at the CAC earlier that night; this used to be her kind of place. It was just after 4.30am, so the crowd had thinned out some as the 6am closing time and sunrise approached. Most of those remaining were either too drunk to bother her, too wiped after hours of dancing at clubs that were now closed, or getting busy in those dark booths of anonymity.

She didn't give the other patrons more than a casual glance as she walked straight to the bar and flopped down on an empty stool. Fishing a crumpled cigarette pack from her jacket pocket she didn't see the bartender turn and look at her, her eyes widening in recognition. The bartender slowly approached, a smirk appearing. "Well, I'll be damned, if it isn't the great lesbian heartbreaker herself, and in my humble little bar." Getting a closer look at Shane her expression softened some. "You look like shit, hun, whatcha got yourself into now?"

Shane's head snapped up dazedly in surprise. She tried to focus on the approaching figure and it took a little effort, as the unidentified pills she'd washed down with her emergency flask of bourbon in the truck were finally starting to take effect. Frowning slightly she tried to put together the woman's features: slightly stout, short dark hair with a hint of grey, gaze a mix of wonder and worry. "Paula?"

Paula nodded, "Yep."

"Fuck," Shane hissed under her breath. "All I wanna do is wallow in the utterly pathetic levels I've sunk to…alone…and I can't even get that right." She chuckled brokenly, even though she felt on the verge of breaking completely and the drugs were not proving nearly strong enough.

"Gotta say, sweetheart, thought I'd be dead and gone before I'd see you back in here. Why did you come here, really, I mean you must've known I'd be here? I'm always here."

Shane smiled sadly and looked down shaking her head. "I know. Maybe it was the only place open, or maybe I have no sense of shame, or maybe I was hurt and just wanted my mom. Well, you know, the closest thing to a mom I could think of."

"What, a washed up old dykey bartender who found a weedy teenaged twink hustler beaten to unconsciousness in the alley behind her bar years ago? Patched him up only to find out he wasn't a he, and decided to try and watch out for her, even though she makes it almost impossible and never comes to see me anymore?"

"Maybe…" she took a breath, her eyes still on the bar. "Look, Paula I really don't want to reminisce about old times, or talk about my shitty life. I just want to get a drink or two and hide until closing then I'll get out of your hair. So can I get a Jack Daniels, double, ice, and a beer?" Shane sighed and looked up at Paula, silently pleading with her to let it go.

Paula just shook her head. "Sure, I'm only good for patching up wounds I can see anyway." She turned to get the drinks then set them down in front of Shane, who fumbled to get her wallet out. Paula just waved her off. "Don't worry about it, hun, you know I don't charge my family."

Shane stood up slowly, trying to steady herself before picking up the drinks. She looked up at the older woman, who just watched her with silent concern, mumbled her thanks and made her way to a booth on the other side of the room toward the back. Trying to ignore the moans and grunts of hurried drunken passion from the booth behind her, and the muffled chatter of other people, Shane slid into the empty booth and took a large swallow of the chilled spirit, not noticing the angry glare directed at her from the entrance.

Having managed to manoeuvre Tina to the sofa Alice sat down, holding Tina as she clinged to her like a lifeline, trying to get a grasp on the events leading to this situation. She looked up at the white dry erase board, and there was the largest clue to the puzzle. ''CA'…has to be the carpenter. Bette has a thing for Candace, no it's a solid line not a dotted line…which means…Bette's sleeping, or slept with I guess, Candace. No! Bette wouldn't do that! Would she?' Alice looked down at Tina who was still crying but softer now, somehow more defeated. 'God, why would she? She has what we all want…what I want.' Alice's eyes moved from Bette's name to hers and then she followed the steps to get from her to Dana. 'Four steps.' She mentally drew in a dotted line from Dana to her, and then shook her head. 'God I'm so stupid. Fuck, what was I thinking?' Tina made a loud sniffing sound followed by a choked hiccup, drawing Alice's attention back. 'And on top of that I'm thoughtless, here's my friend in a mess, her world falling apart and I am playing around with fantasies of imaginary dotted lines.'

Attention back on the situation at hand, Alice leaned over and grabbed a box of tissues and then gently pulled Tina back enough to see her face. "Tina, sweetie…hey…" Not really knowing what to say, and for once understanding she couldn't probe for info, Alice just gestured to the tissues with a slight smile, "Here, sweetie."

Tina looked up at Alice like she'd just realised she was there, and down at the patch she'd created on her dress, choking back a sob she looked back up at Alice. "Oh, Al…I'm sorry…um…" She sat up slightly, sniffled and took the offered tissues. "…I just…I didn't know where…um…" Tears that never really stopped spilt over again and she crumpled back into Alice weeping brokenly.

"Hey, don't worry about it, you can cry on me all you want." She gave Tina a squeeze to reassure her. "And you definitely did the right thing coming here, whatever the reason, it's why you have a key." Tina mumbled a response but it's too muffled to understand, leading Alice to prompt, "What was that, sweetie?"

With much effort Tina pulled her head up and looked at Alice, her voice was so soft and lost it sounded more like a whisper in the wind. "Why would she do this, Al?"

"I don't know, T. If it's what I think it is, it doesn't make any sense to me either."

"I mean…I know things ha…I mean, we've been a little…distant maybe…God, I don't know what I mean." She paused trying to order what she wanted to say, or even if she really wanted to say anything. "I don't think I'm ready to talk about this yet." She wiped her eyes and leaned back into Alice's shoulder, breaking eye contact, her eyes open in awe and sadness, trying to grasp that this is all real.

Alice welcomed Tina back, wrapped one arm tightly around her shoulders in comfort and ran the other through her slightly sweaty hair. "It's ok, you don't have to say anything, I'll be here."

Tina mumbled her thanks absently, her mind going over the events of the last few hours, days, weeks, months, trying to track back over what had happen, when it had started, how it had happened, and why. What had she done to drive her wife into another woman's arms? 'I know I wasn't as attentive and…but god I lost a baby, our baby…I might have been distant, but she was never there... Is this the first time? It has to be or I would have noticed…But I didn't notice this time until it was in my face... Oh god! How long has it really been going on? Can't be that long, she hasn't known her that long…has she?'

Tina's sobs had quietened and her breathing had evened out, leading Alice to think she had slipped off to sleep. She relaxed her hold and leaned back into the couch a little trying to get comfortable. 'What the hell are we going to do?' All of a sudden Tina stiffened as a thought occurred to her, she snapped up to sit beside Alice, her eyes fixed on the other woman's, while Alice tried to calm her racing heart. "Tina, what? What is it?"

"She took the job at social justice, why would she do that?" Tina blurted out suddenly, as if expecting Alice to understand the context.


"The carpenter," Tina explained, not wanting to say her name. "She took the job at social justice, she knew who I was, and that she was fucking my…" New tears formed as she realised she couldn't actually bring herself to voice the fact. "Why would she do that? Was she checking out the competition, internally gloating? God, I was nice to her, and all the time she… What kind of person does that? Not only comes between a seven year relationship, but makes nice with the wife she's helping to betray, has she no morals at all?" Tina got louder, angrier and more forceful as she got further into her rant, not seeing the tiny flash of guilt across Alice's face. "And Bette was so judgemental of the Jenny, Marina and Tim thing and she turns around and does this," she rationalised, looking at Alice for validation of her arguments, the other woman weakly nodded back with a small smile. Tina looked down and wiped her eyes again, then resettled back into Alice's shoulder. The other woman shifted her focus to the dry erase board and zeroing in on Dana and the link to Tonya. She closed her eyes and tried not to cry.

Tina shifted slightly in Alice's arms but didn't look at her. "At least Marina seemed to love Jenny…in her way, and I'm fairly sure Jenny loves her. Doesn't mean I agree with the betrayal, but you can't help who you love, right?"

"Yeah," came the hoarse reply. "You can't help who you love." Alice's damp eyes opened, tracking back to the dry erase board and locked onto a single word. 'Dana.'

Chapter Two

The blonde casually stepped into the bar, her posture not giving away the mood that her eyes couldn't hide, and the door slowly closed behind her. Her eyes locked onto the figure of the scruffy brunette hunched over her drinks in a booth near the back. Keeping her moves casual she made her way to the bar, not taking her eyes off Shane, almost daring her to look up and see her, but Shane merely reached for her pack of cigarettes, and then fumbled in her jacket for her lighter. Shifting her focus to lean on the bar, the blonde ordered a beer not concerned about being ID'd given what she was wearing and the establishment. She payed for the beer and made her way over to the booth, sliding in to sit uninvited she opened conversation before Shane could catch up.

"So, is this how you celebrate ruining my family and humiliating me?" she seethed openly slamming the bottle down on the table not having taken even a sip.

Shane jerked out of her semi-stupor and directed red eyes to the girl across from her, "Clea?" Remembering where she was she gaped at her, "What the fuck are you doing here? How the hell did you find me?"

Clea's angry scowl turned momentarily to a look of sarcastic incredulity. "I saw your truck parked at your almost-salon and followed you, how else do you think I found you, this place isn't exactly high on my choice of night spots." Her face reverted to a display of anger, she grabbed the bottle and slammed it down on the tabletop once again. "I want some sort of explanation, damn it! You're fucking my mother! Have you got any idea what you've done to my family? My father wants to send me to boarding school and my mother won't speak to me. She's a married woman! She's my MOTHER, fuck!" She threw herself back in her seat, looking more like a spoiled child than a force to be reckoned with. "God, this is all your fault, you've ruined everything, for what, so you could tick off your 'Hollywood Wife' fuck experience," she seethed vehemently, hoping for a low blow. She picked up the bottle and again slammed it down, spilling more beer. "Fuck. I hate you!"

Deciding this little tantrum had gone on long enough and thinking a little clearer thanks to the multiple thumps of the bottle, Shane straightened up and butted out her cigarette with an almost steady hand. She looked directly at Clea, who seemed more sulky now than angry, and said calmly, "Firstly." She made a grab for the bottle and moved it out of Clea's reach. "Stop with the fucking bottle." Having already downed the bourbon Shane reached for her own beer and took a pull before gently setting it down on the table, a raised eyebrow and a hinted smirk the only acknowledgment of the point being made.

"Secondly, what your mother decides to do within the politics of her marriage is none of my business. She made it clear what she wanted from me and at the time I had no problems in giving it to her." Clea made to interject, but Shane held her hand up to stop her, taking another long swallow of the beer she continued, "In hindsight it may have been a mistake, but given the chance I wouldn't change what I did. I would knowingly make those mistakes again, but that is my business not yours."

Shane's voice remained eerily calm and even detached, staying Clea from attempting a second interruption. "And thirdly, maybe if you hadn't lied to your father about you and I sleeping together you wouldn't be so caught up in all of this. I'm sorry my having been involved with your mother was disturbing for you, but it's over now, and even if I hadn't been I wouldn't have gotten involved with you anyway. Sorry again to have to put it bluntly, but kids aren't my thing." Realising that she was starting to lose what little focus she had Shane knew she had to leave, draining the beer and grabbing her cigarettes, she stood awkwardly and waited to find her centre of gravity. "Look, I'm just going to leave, and don't worry I won't be contacting any members of your family any time soon."

Shane oriented herself before moving, targeting the door she made sure to keep her eyes on it as she started across the room. Sticking her right hand into the pocket of her pants she located her keys, pulling them out and holding them in readiness. Paula watched her from the bar with concern and was about to make her move when a woman stepped into Shane's path blocking her sight of the door, and halting her progress with a hand to her shoulder. "Where do you think you're going? I'm not letting you leave alone."

Not even bothering to look the taller woman in the eye Shane focused over her shoulder locating the door once more, she replied absently, "Look I'm really not in the mood for sex tonight, I just want to go home and sleep, ok." Thinking she'd diffused the situation Shane attempted to push past the woman and toward the door.

But the woman grabbed her shoulder again stopping her. "Well, that's nice to know, because neither am I, but I am not in the habit of letting girls so drunk they can barely stand up drive themselves home," she said it in tone that left no room for argument. Shane finally looked up recognising the red head, wondering what she was doing in a bar like this. "Come on then, give your keys. I got a ride with some friends, so I'll drive you home." She held her hands out for the keys, and although Shane wanted to argue, the 'no-nonsense' look the woman was giving her had the brunette dropping the keys into the open hand without further comment.

The red head smiled victoriously, "Ok, let's go." Giving the brunette a gentle shove in the direction of the door, Lara turned around to wave to her friends before following Shane out of the bar.

Tonya slowly crawled toward waking consciousness, she stretched slightly and rolled over to find Dana still in bed. A glance at the clock revealing it was after 8am, and taking the fact that Dana was still in bed later than normal as a positive sign she snuggled closer and lazily slipped her hand under Dana's top. Intending to wake Dana slowly she didn't realise she was already awake, wide awake, staring at the ceiling not having been back to sleep since she was woken at 4am. A hand lightly brushing against the underside of her breast pulled her back from her thoughts. She halted the hand with a firm grasp. "I'm awake."

"And you waited for me to wake up, oh sweetie, how thoughtful, I know we have lots of arrangements to go over, but I think we can spare some time snuggling in bed too. I mean, everything is going to get so busy once we set a date, which we need to do, with arranging the details of the ceremony and all, then there's all the legal rigmarole that needs to be covered and dealt with to merge our lives completely. But this morning we don't have to think about all that, or dead cats, or needy, nosey friends, just us." Tonya plastered a smile on her face and tried to move her hand from Dana's grasp. "Sweetie? I need my hand back to do thi…"

Dana interrupted, "Hang on, wait a minute, what are you taking about, I think I lost you in the middle. Ceremony? Legal rigmarole? Aren't you moving a little fast?" Dana removed Tonya's hand from her top and sat up. "And what do you mean 'needy, nosey friends'?" she asked, directing a slightly confused questioning glare Tonya's way.

"Arranging the wedding. You know, what the engagement leads too, sweetie." She gave Dana a somewhat patronising look, unsure if she was joking or really not understanding. "And your friends are needy, I'm assuming that was one that woke us up at 4am," she continued, irritatingly.

"Uhh…yeah…it was, um…it was Alice." Flustered all of a sudden and unsure how to explain to Tonya why Alice had needed to see her at 4am, Dana chose not to say anything further.

Tonya snorted, "I should have known it was her, she's the neediest of the bunch. I mean, I'm sorry, honey, I know she's your friend and you love her, but she does latch onto you a bit, and I know she hates me. I can see it in the patronising looks she gives me and the sarcastic little snips she throws at me. She does it to you as well, though I don't think you notice…" She kept going but Dana zoned out at the mention of love, thinking back again to the 'talk' on her step. 'What was that? Was she serious? I've never even thought about Alice that way, and now it's all I can think about. I kissed her back, I mean, how could I not, and it felt so good. It felt real and alive and hot.'

Dana looked to Tonya who had finished her rant and was looking at her for a response. "I do love her," she said simply. Tonya gave her an odd look of confusion, not having placed as much importance on that tiny phrase in her larger rant, so missing what Dana was referring to. Before she could comment Dana continued, "And I think we need to talk."

Part 3

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