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 Five

Busy at the bench beating eggs Lara didn't notice Shane softly pad into the kitchen until she heard her husky voice behind her. "I used one of the new toothbrushes under the sink, hope you don't mind." Shane's voice sounded strangely tentative as she made her way to the coffee pot and filled one of the mugs waiting. She picked up the other one and glanced at Lara in silent question.

Lara just nodded, "Um, yeah, thanks." She forced her eyes away from the captivating image of Shane barefoot in her kitchen dressed in her clothes and tried to focus on the eggs. But it was too late, the image was already burned into her memory. Shane had chosen to borrow a fairly loose fitting pair of jeans that had once been dark blue but were now well worn and faded, and with them she wore a simple navy T-shirt. Her hair, still wet from the shower, had been haphazardly and almost successfully shoved back from her face. If she hadn't known better she would have described her as almost cute. Lara turned to accept the coffee being held out, she took a sip and looked down, noting the jeans had been rolled up a turn to fit, which only added to the notion of cute. Remembering breakfast she asked, "I figured you could use a protein boost, so are omelettes ok?"

"I don't mind, anything's ok with me," Shane answered. "You really don't have to cook me breakfast, I can just go and get out of your way. You didn't even get any and you want to cook me breakfast," the brunette joked trying to make light of a situation she found more than a little uncomfortable.

Seeing the honest insight behind Shane's comment Lara just replied, "Not everybody needs payment for breakfast, Shane. Now what do you want in your omelette?"

"Right," Shane murmured before moving to the bench to see what Lara had prepared. "Ummm, I think I'll have a little of everything, but no onion or mushrooms."

"Good choice," Lara smiled. "I think I'll pass on the onion too, I have to go to work in an hour, and I don't want to contaminate the food with onion breath." She wiped her hands and moved to the fridge pulling out a clear jug filled with an orangey pink liquid. She poured a glass and handed it to Shane. "Here drink this; it will help with the hangover."

Shane sniffed the strange drink. "What is it? And I didn't actually drink that much last night, you know."

Lara poured half the egg mixture into the hot pan before turning. "It's my secret recipe, mainly a mix of fruits, but it's high in vitamin C and B12 as well as some other goodies, so drink up." She checked the stove, making sure the egg was cooked enough to add the filling, talking while she worked. "And I figured you weren't just drunk, you looked a little too zoned out, but it doesn't matter. So drink it." She flipped the omelette and looked over her shoulder to see Shane still peering into the glass warily. "Come on, you put that crap in your body last night, but you won't drink something that's actually nutritious. I promise it tastes great."

Shane glanced up only to see an encouraging smile, she sighed and took a sip. "Mmmm," she responded appreciatively, taking a bigger mouthful. "This is really good. So, what, you just made it up yourself? Does it have a name?" Shane drained the glass before adding, "You know you should try selling it."

Lara just chuckled as she put the cooked omelette onto a plate, and handed it to Shane as she took the glass to refill. "I just call it my Go Juice. I came up with it in college to try and compensate for the bad eating habits, and I discovered it was a great hangover cure by accident." She handed the refilled glass and some cutlery to Shane, who was now seated at the counter, and returned to cook her own omelette.

In between forkfuls of egg Shane commented, "So, if you have to work, I guess I'll go after this and let you get ready. I mean I have my…"

But Lara interrupted as she sat down. "Shane, just stop it. You don't have to leave, in fact I would feel better if you stayed and got some sleep. If you need to hide, why not do it here, it's not like anyone will think to look at my place. And I don't expect anything from you, I'm not like that. You just look like you could use a friend, and by that I mean one that's not going to pressure you for explanations…yet. But I would suggest you at least call your real friends and tell them you're alive even if you don't want to see them, because you know they will worry."

Finished eating, Shane leaned back with a sigh and sipped her coffee. "Yeah, I probably should." At Lara's enquiring eyebrow she hastily relented, "And I will…right before I go back to bed and get some more sleep."

Shane sipped her coffee in silence as Lara finished eating. "Are you sure it's alright for me to stay?" she asked again, just to make sure.

Lara pushed up and stood. "Yes! I wouldn't have offered if it wasn't. Now go get some sleep."

Shane moved to pick up her dishes, when the redhead stopped her. "Don't worry I'll do that, just go get some sleep. I work until eight, you can stay as long as you want, but if you leave before then could you make sure to lock up."

"Sure," Shane answered. "And Lara, I just…thanks." She smiled briefly getting a radiant one in return, that not only left the redhead's eyes sparkling, but seemed to envelop the whole room including Shane. Shane nodded and left the room. Lara turned her attention to cleaning up, and when she passed through her bedroom on the way to the shower not five minutes later the brunette was already asleep. Lara stopped for a moment to watch her sleep, and she couldn't help but think how adorably cute Shane looked curled up in her bed. 'What? Cute? No-no no-no-no…not cute, never cute; sexy, seductive, alluring, dangerous, but never cute. Don't even think of going there Lara,' she berated herself internally, 'you know it's a trap.' Pulling her gaze away from Shane she moved to the bathroom to shower and get ready for work.

Not much had been said during breakfast and even less as they cleaned up after. Dana and Alice dealt with the dishes, while Tina put everything away and started brewing another pot of coffee. Tina sat and waited for the coffee; she was deliberately trying to avoid letting Bette creep into her thoughts, but it was near impossible, so instead she watched the other two finish up. Something was definitely going on there, but she couldn't put her finger on it, the occasional comment passed between them but Tina couldn't hear what was being said. Then she saw it; Alice looked up saying something to Dana before quickly returning to re-assembling the cleaned juicer, her hair falling to cover her face. Dana reached out tenderly tucking the hair behind Alice's ear and turned her head until their eyes met, not dropping her gaze the brunette replied reassuringly. Their eyes remained locked for a long moment and Tina saw Alice begin to move in before catching herself, instead bringing her hand up to pat Dana's arm before turning back to finish her task. The interaction was so natural and yet so intimate, more than just friends intimate. 'Oh my god!'

She couldn't help but think of Bette and how comfortable intimacy was between them. 'Had been between us', she corrected herself. She thought of how she had trusted her completely, and how Bette had betrayed that trust in the worst way. She knew she still loved her, but even if she could get past this she wasn't sure she could ever trust Bette like that again, and you couldn't have a good relationship without trust, love wasn't worth much more than pain without trust. She felt tears spill over once more and not wanting to disturb her friends' happiness she hurried out of the kitchen shutting herself in the bathroom.

The sound of the closing door drew Alice and Dana's attention, the blonde sighed, "See what I mean, I don't know how to help. I've never seen her like this; she's always the together one helping me out in these sort of situations." She turned back to the juicer, before shoving it from her in frustration. "Fuck. Stupid piece of…"

"Hey," Dana interrupted softly. "Alice, baby, come here." Alice turned to her and allowed herself to be folded into the welcoming embrace, relaxing with a sigh, and snaking her arms around Dana's waist. "I'm not sure what we can do except be there for her and if she wants to talk, she'll talk," the brunette simplified Alice's complex worry, gently rubbing her hands across the blonde's shoulders.

"Mmm, I know, but I want to know what happened and how to fix it," she mumbled, before lifting her head from Dana's shoulder so she could look her in the eyes. "So, baby, huh?" she commented with a smirk.

Dana looked at her a sheepishly. "Ah, it just kind of popped out." Not sure if she'd overstepped she hurriedly added, "I didn't even realise I said it, but if you don't like it, I'll make sure I don't do it again." She dropped her eyes and attempted to step back.

"Hey Dane, stop." The blonde held her, and explained reassuring, "I like it, ok, I like it a lot, and I love that you did it unconsciously. You're so sweet." She leaned in gently tasting Dana lips.

Dana just grinned bashfully and held her a little tighter. "Well you are my baby now."

"And you're mine," Alice replied, matching Dana's goofy grin. "I love you, Dana," she added seriously.

The grin receded as Dana replied soberly, "I love you, too, Alice." She traced her hands up Alice's arms until they were resting lightly on either side of her neck, and she gently pulled the blonde in kissing her. She lightly tasted her lips before deepening the kiss, deliberately keeping it slow and sensual, trying to convey what she was feeling through her actions, as their tongues met and began to move against each other. Alice let out a long low sigh and responded passionately, taking control of the kiss; she pushed her tongue back against Dana's wanting to taste the inside of her mouth. The move elicited a gentle moan from Dana, who in turn upped the tempo, one hand running into Alice's hair pulling her deeper into her mouth while the other slid down the blonde's back and under the hem of her tank top. Alice's hands moved from caressing Dana's back to slip down over the tennis player's butt, squeezing slightly she pulled Dana's pelvis to her own, moulding their bodies to each other.

"Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt." The smirk on Tina's face took away from the sincerity of her apology. "So is this a new development or an old cover up?" she asked casually while pouring herself a cup of coffee. She had managed to collect herself in the bathroom and hoped focusing on Dana and Alice would stave off another bout of tears; with that in mind she turned to them for an answer. What she found were two grown women looking more like children who had just been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

Alice was the first to recover glancing at Dana before she answered, "It's a new development, actually…um, really new." She looked back at Dana who now looked less shocked and was nodding her head dumbly in agreement.

"Yeah, like last night kind of new." Dana smiled remembering a flustered and nervous Alice on her doorstep. They moved apart and Alice went to get coffee.

After pouring herself some she looked up at Dana, asking innocently, "Coffee, baby?" The brunette's eyes widened and she saw the glint of amusement in Alice's eyes as she waited for her answer.

Dana just nodded, unable to stop the slight blush. "Thanks."

Tina watched the interplay between her two friends as she sat and decided that seeing them together wasn't as strange as she might have thought. Even though she had thought Tonya was really wrong for Dana all along she couldn't help but think of the tennis player's fiancé. "Dana aren't you engaged, what about your fiancé?"

Dana accepted the mug Alice handed her before she moved to sit across from Tina, setting it down on the breakfast bar. "I broke off the engagement. I, ah, realised I was kidding myself about being in love with Tonya, and it wasn't fair to her or me to settle for anything less." She turned sideways on the stool as Alice approached, and adjusted to let the blonde stand between her legs, wrapping her arms around her, before she elaborated further, "I came to this realisation this morning, with a little help from Alice and a very convincing 4am talk."

Tina watched as Alice gave Dana a playful warning glare, but the brunette just smiled back before placing a light kiss at Alice's temple. From across the bench Tina was intrigued, commenting, "Must have been one pretty convincing conversation. What did you say, Al?"

"I, ah…" She looked to Dana, but from the cheeky grin flashed back at her she knew she would get no help there, she blew out a sigh before answering, "I kissed her, ok!" Then she quickly added, "But she kissed me back."

"I did," Dana admitted to Tina seriously in support, but the amusement in her eyes gave her away, as did the forced set of her jaw in an attempt to hide a knowing grin.

"Must have been some kiss, Al." Tina couldn't help the little tease.

"Well, you know, I try," Alice admitted with a smile.

"Yeah, it was ok," the brunette added, trying to appear casual, she shrugged. "Nothin' special or anything."

"Hey!" Alice protested with a jab to Dana's ribs, receiving a happy grin and chuckle for her effort.

Tina couldn't help but smile, 'They're so adorable. Who would've thought.' She immediately thought of how much Bette would have liked this, bringing reality crashing in. She was determined not to break down, so with tears in her eyes and a smile on her lips she spoke, "I'm really happy for you guys. I've got to say it's a bit unexpected, but it kind of makes sense in a way, you know. Really didn't think I'd see you crossing the friendship line though, Al."

"I know, that is like a big no-no for me," Alice replied, and then leaned further into Dana. "But I found an exception, a very sweet and adorably beautiful exception. And I can not believe this is me talking."

"You know," Tina chocked off looking down, tears forming in her eyes. "Bette would really love this."

"Yeah, right after she finished bitching at me about the rules of friendship and not being able to undo what's done," Alice answered automatically. She looked up at Tina panicked when she realised. "Oh, T, I'm sorry, I didn't think. Shit, I'm such an idiot."

"No, it's alright, I don't want you to have to censor yourself around me, god," Tina replied, swatting the tears away in frustration. "You know, I've been thinking and rethinking this whole thing, and I can't work it out. I mean I know we were having problems, but I still can't explain it." She was trying desperately to hold herself together long enough. "But regardless, she's going to need you guys as well. You guys are her friends too and she's going to need to talk to you." She sniffled and grabbed some tissues from her pocketed supply. "I guess I just want to make sure you don't shun her in some display of loyalty to the betrayed party. I think enough accusations and judgements will come from both of us without bringing our friends into it."

"Ok, T, whatever you want," Alice replied supportively.

"Yeah, Tina, I won't shun her," Dana agreed but couldn't help adding vehemently, "but I'm still going to be pissed as hell at her."

Alice just smiled adoringly at Dana's strong stance over the issue, she leaned in for a chaste kiss, but couldn't help returning for a little more, and Dana couldn't seem to help obliging.

Seeing where this was going Tina bought up another concern. "Have either of you heard anything from Shane? She didn't look too emotionally stable when she left the CAC last night."

They pulled apart and shook their heads. "No, she had that run in with Cherie Jaffe and then she disappeared," Alice answered worriedly. "She wouldn't have done anything stupid, though, would she?"

Chapter Six

The credits began to roll as Alice and Tina sat numbly on the couch. Dana had left a couple of hours ago to go check her house was still standing and that Tonya was gone. Dana had chosen to escape the tense situation earlier that morning rather than let herself be a willing victim of Tonya's spite as she moved out.

Alice sighed, trying to shake herself back to reality. "Well, there's nothing like cheesy daytime TV to make you realise your life could definitely be worse."

"Speak for yourself," Tina replied. "I don't know about you but I've always longed to find out my boyfriend of three years, who just left me for another man, is really my half brother from when my father had a fling with his cousin." She sat up, removing her feet from Alice's lap and setting them on the floor before continuing with a sad smile, "At least I could have got on TV with that one. But, no, my story is so common it's a cliché."

Not knowing how to reply Alice just sat and waited for Tina to say what she needed to. Tina just dropped her head into her hands and massaged her forehead with her fingers. "I just don't know what I'm going to do, Al."

Alice reached out to stroke Tina's back reassuringly. "You know you can stay here as long as you need. So why not just do that for now and see what happens." Taking a deep breath, she tentatively asked, "Are you planning to contact Bette at all?"

Tina groaned pushing herself up, watching the muted ads on the TV as she answered, "I don't want to, but I know I have to. I'm going to need to pick up some stuff from the house and I really should make it clear that I'm moving out indefinitely, just so she knows where things are at."

"Indefinitely?" Alice questioned the use of the term softly.

"Well I don't really want to put a time frame on it, but I can't see how…" she stopped, trying to find strength to say it. "It's going to take a lot for me to forgive her for this, and even then I don't see how I can ever trust her again." The last part was no more than a whisper, but she kept the tears from breaking.

"If you want me to come with you, I'm there, ok?" Alice offered with a squeeze of Tina's hand. "Dana too, and I'll ask Shane as well if she ever answers her phone."

Though tempted to bring reinforcements, Tina replied, "No, I think I should go alone, maybe tomorrow, but could you be here when I get back?"


Tina nodded her thanks. "I'll try not to cramp your style too much, you know, with the bright and shiny new relationship and all." She shook her head in amazement. "God, I still can't believe it, you and Dana…wow! I so didn't see that coming."

"That makes two of us," Alice sighed. "Well three if you count Dana, you should've seen the look on her face when I kissed her," she chuckled dreamily remembering. "I'm pretty sure she didn't see it coming. We really need to talk about this whole thing, Dane and I, I mean, it's all happened so fast, maybe we need to step back and make sure we both want the same things here." Even given how happy she felt about the whole thing she couldn't help the small niggling doubts in the back of her mind. "T, you'd tell me if this was a really stupid thing to do, right? I mean Dana's like my best friend, and this could seriously fuck that up. Right?"

"Yeah, it could," Tina agreed. "But it could also make it a whole lot better. You already know you can love her, could you fall 'in love' with her?" She asked straight up.

Alice nodded without hesitation, but didn't offer verbal confirmation.

"Ok, what made you go to her place last night? These feelings didn't just come out of the blue, right, they had to have been stirring for a while, so why last night?" Tina looked pointedly at Alice unwilling to let her not answer.

Taking a deep breath, Alice answered, "In a way they kind of did come from nowhere. I mean, I guess I sort of unconsciously knew, but she's my best friend so most of those feelings could be explained away as friendly love and protectiveness, you know, and the rest I just didn't acknowledge." At Tina's raised eyebrow she scoffed, "I know, ok, and I made fun of Dana's powers of denial." Getting back to her train of thought she continued, "But seeing her with Tonya really grated me, I could see that slimy little manipulative bitch twisting Dane around her little finger, moulding and changing her, and Dana deluding herself into thinking it was love. Hell, she even had them dressing alike! And I still say she murdered Mr P! She was probably slipping arsenic in his food for weeks, all 'Flowers in the Attic'." She broke off and took a steadying breath, trying to calm herself, she didn't look at Tina as she continued, "But it wasn't love, and I could see that regardless of how she seemed on the surface, Dana wasn't happy. She deserves to be happy, goddamn it, and I knew I could make her happy; and even more than that, I realised I wanted to make her happy, I wanted to love her like she deserves." Wiping the few stray tears that the heartfelt speech had set free, she glanced up at Tina with a quirky smile. "And that's when I ended up on Dana's doorstep at 4am, lacking the exact words to explain my epiphany."

Sniffing self-consciously Alice reached for the tissues, but upon seeing the box was empty she got up and went into the bedroom to get some more. "God, can you believe this is me, getting all blubbery and emotional over a girl?" she questioned light-heartedly as she walked back in. "I'm usually so against lesbian drama and here I am living it."

Seeing the need for a change of subject, Tina asked, "So, Shane's still not answering?" Knowing Alice had tried to call Shane's cell twice only to get her voicemail, and that her roommates said she hadn't been home.

Walking to the phone Alice answered, "No, she hasn't. It's not like her to not answer or return her messages, that phone's like her left arm, I'm going to try again." Alice picked up the handset and pressed the speed dial for Shane; she walked back to the couch and sat next to Tina. She was about to hang up when a groggy, obviously still half asleep voice answered.

"Yeah," Shane croaked down the phone as she flopped back against the pillows, having managed to find the phone in her jacket on the floor beside the bed.

"Nice to hear you're up bright and early this…afternoon," Alice smirked.

Trying her best to shake off her sleepy confusion Shane replied, "Al? What the fuck? Did you call just to wake me up?"

Chuckling, Alice retorted, "No, just calling to see if you're still alive, waking you up is just a bonus."

"Damn, I was having a really nice dream too," Shane sighed in disappointment. "So what's up, Al?" Sitting up Shane was initially surprised by her surroundings, but the memories filtered back in. Turning to look at the alarm clock she saw that it was a little after 3pm, she also noticed a bottle of water and a packet of paracetamol sitting on the bedside table, which she reached for quickly washing down two tablets with generous gulps of water.

"I really just wanted to check in with you, see how you were after last night. But by the sound of it you had quite an eventful night," Alice observed casually, given the extra late sleep in and the 'bar wench' voice.

"Yeah, kinda." Came the murmured reply.

"Ok." She was slightly confused at the vague response but knew if Shane didn't want to share info it could be like trying to get blood from a stone. There was a knock at her door, she watched Tina let Dana in and couldn't help the small flippy buzz she got as their eyes locked together. Forcing her focus back to the phone call she half-joked with a slight edge of concern, "Well I know from your flatmates that you didn't get home, so just tell me you found a bed and didn't sleep in your truck parked on the street or something."

"No sleeping in the truck or on the street, I promise, I found a very comfy bed, or I should say it kinda found me; it even included breakfast," she smiled with a hint of embarrassment as she remembered waking up and having breakfast earlier. "But thanks for the wake up call, I really should get going." Even as she was talking to Alice she climbed out of bed grabbing her borrowed jeans and trying to put them on one-handed.

"You're still there?" the blonde questioned, surprised that Shane would allow herself to stay until sun-up let alone 3pm the next day. Wanting the goss, plus knowing that Shane should be told about the inter-friend developments, she hastened to offer, "Why don't you just come around here, Dana and Tina are here. When I rang your place earlier it sounded like they'd had a pretty big night, so you could come here to avoid the clean up and hang out with us." Reflexively grasping Dana's hand when she sat down beside her, she looked up at the brunette and kept eye contact as she talked to Shane. "Plus, we have some things to tell you" Quickly flicking a glance across at Tina, she added, "Things you should probably hear from us."

She wasn't really sure if she wanted to face her friends and their questions right now, when she was actually feeling a little clearer, maybe even a bit better. But the weird combination of happiness and ominousness in Alice's voice had Shane saying, "Ok, Al, I'll hang out. I should be there in about an hour, as soon as I figure out exactly where I am." She knew she could just get Alice to ask Dana what Lara's address was, but that didn't seem very appropriate, and for some reason a part of her didn't want to share where she'd spent the night. That confused her more than anything, and she didn't really want to think about it right at that moment.

Hanging up the phone on a very confused and intrigued Alice, she finished getting dressed and walked out into the living area. There was a note on the dining table telling her she could take the rest of the 'Go Juice' and to return the clothes whenever. She went to the fridge and saw that Lara had transferred the rest of the homemade juice into a plastic bottle; she grabbed it, returned to the table, flipped the note over and wrote a quick thankyou. She made sure she had everything, and took a swig of juice as she walked to the door. Shane opened the door, remembering to throw the locks, but she hesitated before locking herself out. She looked back at the note, tapping on the door, trying to come to a decision. Finally she walked quickly across the room, leaving the door open and added a 'PS' to the bottom of the note. Satisfied, the lanky brunette walked purposefully out the door shutting it behind her, she ran down the stairs and out into the afternoon sun, 'Right, now, my truck?'

Part 7

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