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 Seven

Tina went to answer the sharp rap on Alice's door, recognising it as Shane's immediately, Alice and Dana having snuck off to the bedroom to 'talk' about a half hour ago. She mentally prepared herself for dealing with a potentially 'worst case scenario' Shane in need of damage control. But the sight she saw at the door didn't quite fit with the events of the night before. From what the three of them had been able to piece together a whole pile of Cherie Jaffe shit had hit Shane's fan, and not having ever seen Shane rejected she wasn't sure what to expect. Yet here was Shane looking…well, not quite refreshed but definitely rested and showered, with a friendly smile, wearing clean faded blue jeans and a grey hoodie.

"Hey T, am I allowed in or are we convening from the front door these days?" Shane smirked, amused at the puzzled look of confusion on Tina's face.

Snapping out it Tina moved aside to let her friend in. "Uh, sure, come in. Did you go home to change, is that what took you so long?"

"No," she said simply. At Tina's questioning glance she shrugged and added reluctantly, "It just took me a while to figure out where I was exactly, and even then it was a bit of a hike." She followed the blonde in noticing the empty lounge area. "So where are Al and Dane?" Before Tina could reply an answering long low groan followed by a muffled giggle came from the bedroom, drawing Shane's attention. She turned back to Tina, thumbing over her shoulder with a lazy smirk. "And who's playing around in the bedroom?"

Tina grinned, happy to blurt out the news first. "That would be Al and Dana, and technically they're 'talking'", she emphasised with air quotes. "But I'm starting to think their idea of talking is a little warped."

Totally baffled Shane looked at the door, hearing only shuffling now, and then back at Tina, before doing a double take. "Hang on, wait a minute." Holding her hands up as if to stop Tina, she gestured slightly erratically toward the bedroom door. "Alice and Dana are in there, playing around…as in making out, or about to fuck, or what?" Shane frowned in concentration, trying to understand the weird situation, before seeming to shrug the whole thing off. "Ok, so how long has this been going on?"

Tina laughed lightly at Shane's reaction, and she smiled thinking how good it felt to laugh and push the other stuff back in favour of gossip. "Since last night, Alice turned up at Dana's at like 4am, told her she couldn't marry Tonya and kissed her. I'm thinking Dane liked it, I mean, not even 24 hours later Tonya's out and Al in…literally." There was another soft moan followed by some rustling. "And I'm fairly sure they're not going to fuck; they know I'm out here and you know how Dana is."

"Wow," Shane gaped and shook her head trying to comprehend. "I guess that explains why Al was so pissed about Tonya."

"Yeah, maybe, that and the fact the woman was a psycho, suspected cat killer."

"Right," Shane murmured, her smirk returning, and then growing into a grin. "You know this should really feel bizarre, but given the last 24 hours I believe anything is possible." She flopped down in the armchair tucking one leg underneath herself, unscrewed her bottle of juice and took a sip.

"I'll second that," Tina replied thoughtfully and with sadness as she sat on the couch.

The blonde's reaction tipped Shane's curiosity. "Why, what else happened?" Tina's face became awash with melancholy and hopelessness. "T?" the brunette asked, genuinely worried. "What's going on? Where's Bette?"

Her eyes filling with tears, Tina tried desperately to hold them at bay in order to explain what had happened to Shane. But as she was about to speak the bedroom door opened. Alice and Dana practically fell out of it with a rush of happy energy, both were flushed and their hair and clothes showing evidence of their make out session.

Not sure whether she was happy for the distraction or not, Tina took it anyway, pulling herself together and directing what she hoped was a playful comment at the newly forming couple. "Nice of you to join us."

Heeding the blonde's lead Shane too let it go for now and turned to the others. "So, what were you guys talking about?" Shane asked casually, almost in contradiction to the heightened amusement sparkling in her eyes.

Dana looked up a little panicked, and started to pull away from her 'girlfriend'. That thought brought an instant smile to her face, 'Girlfriend? At least I think she is…maybe it's too soon. We'll have to work on the terminology, if we can actually talk in amongst all the 'talk'.'

Alice looked up and guiltily blushed, but Shane's cheesy grin told her the game was up, so she just shrugged and smirked as she walked over to the couch, not letting go of Dana's hand. "What can I say, when she wants my body, she WANTS my body," she bragged, with playful smugness.

Dana's jaw dropped dramatically and her head whipped around to eyeball her blonde. "ME! You were the one that dragged me in there, and you're intentions were nowhere near honourable, missy. God, I practically had to prise you off to breath."

"And you're the big strong athlete, what took you so long, could it be the willing participation," Alice bantered back, quickly kissing the stumped tennis played and pulling her to the couch. Alice sat next to Tina and rather than finding another seat Dana sat on the floor leaning back against the couch.

"Very cute," Shane commented absently, taking a swallow of her 'Go Juice', watching Dana play with the bottom of Alice's pants.

The writer screwed up her face, rolling her eyes as she conceded, "I know, I know. Yuck, right?" She watched Shane take another pull of the strange pinky drink. "What the hell are you drinking?"

Shane looked at the bottle in her hand with a slight smile and replied casually, not thinking of any possible connotations, "Ah, it's 'Go Juice', a secret hangover cure. It's not bad."

Dana tilted her head on the side eyeing the bottle somewhat strangely, in thoughful confusion she questioned, "Go Juice?"

Realising she was possibly walking into hot water but unable to stop the guilty flush, Shane's eyes widened before she quickly looked down cursing her inability to mask her emotions like she usually did and muttered, "Uh, yeah, it's not really an official name or anything. It's not important. So anyway, you guys, huh? Fuck, didn't really see that one coming." Hoping she had successfully diverted focus back to the happy couple, she chanced a glance up only to find herself mistaken.

Shane's hasty change of subject only supported Dana's initial hunch, and the look in her eyes when she glanced up again confirmed it. "Oh my god", she grimaced harshly, closing her eyes and letting her head drop back. "Please, tell me you didn't?" she sighed, flopping her head forward again to glare at the guilty looking known womaniser.

"Dane, I didn't, I swear, it wasn't like that." She cringed as she heard the words, realising it sounded like a cheap throw away excuse.

Dana's accusing eyes bored into the scruffy brunette's and Shane could see the hurt, her voice low-pitched and soft even as she demanded, "You slept with her?"

"Well, yeah," Shane replied honestly, but she continued in a rush, "But I didn't have sex with her. I didn't even lay a hand on her…well, actually I did, just once, but it was totally an accident, I swear."

The tennis player raised an eyebrow at the uncharacteristic almost babble from her friend, but quickly turned serious again, her voice low and warning. "Don't you dare screw with her, Shane. She's a nice, kind and genuinely good person who doesn't deserve to be fucked over. So just don't, please."

A little insulted, but understanding where Dana was coming from, Shane looked her in the eyes and replied steadily, "I won't, I'm not, I didn't; I promise Dane. And I know she's nice…way too good for me."

The other two women watched the exchange in total confusion, not understanding the subtextual conversation, and Alice not being one to stay in the dark, moved forward combing her fingers through Dana's soft hair to get her attention. "What's going on?"

Alice's touch instantly dissolved some of the tense energy running through Dana, she reached back grabbing the blonde's hand and turning it over to kiss the back tenderly, a part of her amazed at how natural this new intimacy felt. "Ah, Shane, um…" But she cut herself off, realising she really had no idea what Shane had done, just that she somehow had a bottle of Lara's special 'Go Juice' and a guilty expression. She looked to Shane, both eyebrows raised, eyes wide in question as she nodded her head and gesticulated with her free hand for Shane to explain.

Almost angry with herself for her small display of guilt, especially given that she really hadn't done anything worthy of such a feeling in their eyes. Hell, she had done so much worse than wiping herself out with drugs and alcohol and crashing at a friend's place that these women knew about. 'This shouldn't feel any different, but it does. Why?' She sighed and explained, "I spent the night at Lara Perkin's place, ok. She cooked me breakfast which included the juice." She held the bottle up as evidence before adding, "Nothing happened ok, unless you count me humiliating myself and Lara laughing her ass off at me." She snorted a laugh, shaking her head, muttering more to herself than the others, "She's a bossy lady, wonder if she's always so controlling." She looked across at Dana, deliberately trying for a reaction to divert attention away from herself, "Well Dane, is she a top in the sack, you should know?"

The tennis player blushed deeply from her place of the floor. "Fuck you, Shane," she retorted, giving the brunette the finger. Shane just raised a challenging eyebrow, silently daring the athlete to answer, as did Alice from her place beside Dana, her hand giving the other woman's a reassuring squeeze, though she was not entirely sure she felt the meaning behind the gesture. Even Tina was curious, hunching forward to hear the answer. Dana looked to Alice and back to Shane, she huffed in defeat. "Fine, ok, she can be…well, she seemed comfortable taking control," she conceded. She shrugged, before adding thoughtfully, "But it wasn't like she always needed to, you know." She made a face at Shane, silently asking if she was happy with the answer.

"Yeah, figured," Shane mumbled, not sure why the answer didn't bring any satisfaction.

Dana glanced up at Alice a little worried about her reaction to the disclosure; the blonde just smiled gently and raised their joined hands so she could kiss the back of her girl's hand. She turned to Shane, squinting slightly. "And you, don't think I don't know you're trying to avoid talking about what happened. How in the hell did you end up with Lara, at her place no less, until three in the afternoon, getting fed...and clothed too by the look of it? I saw you talking the Cherie Jaffe and then you took off." She kept leaning forward, but seeing the flash of pain across Shane's face she reined herself in, asking with concern, "What happened?"

Putting on a brave smile she let her friends see a glimpse of vulnerability. "Nothing that I won't recover from," she hedged. "I've got no-one to blame but myself, I set myself up for a fall and it hurt when I hit the ground. Not much to do now but get up and move on." Hoping that even in her vagueness she'd given them enough and they would leave it alone.

But as usual Alice wasn't satisfied and asked directly, "Did you fall in love with her?"

"No!" Shane replied instantaneously. "I guess for once I just thought I could have something more than casual. The possibility of waking up next to someone familiar and welcome has its positives. You know what I mean?" The final question she directed at Tina, thinking the blonde could definitely validate her cause.

Tina just dropped her head and burst into tears. Shane rushed forward in shock and concern, wrapping the sobbing body of the blonde in her arms. "Hey, T, what is it?" she soothed. Looking up at Alice and Dana in complete bewilderment she demanded, "What's going on?"

Kit approached her sister's front door with caution. She knew what she wanted to say to Bette, well she thought she did, after all she'd spent most of the day working it all out. She knew Bette was having serious problems accepting her relationship with Ivan, but she believed if she could only explain how much she needed this and how happy he made her that she could bring her stubborn sister around. Ivan left her feeling like a blushing schoolgirl at times; he was so nice, and gentle, and safe, and caring, how could any of that be bad. Standing at the door she took a deep breath, felt in her back pocket for the cue cards she'd made in case she got tongue tied and then knocked lightly. Not getting any response she knocked harder, yet still got no response. Disappointed but not wanting to waste all the courage she'd built up she decided to go around the back to break in and wait.

Within five minutes she was in the back door. Walking slowly through the kitchen she noticed all the blinds were pulled down even though it was still an hour or so off sunset and guessed from the stuffy humidity that the place had been shut up all day. "Bette? Tina? Anybody home?" Getting no reply and sensing the emptiness of the house she relaxed and walked into the lounge to sit down. "OH, SHIT!" she exclaimed, coming to a screeching halt seeing Bette sitting on the couch in her robe. She smiled, chuckling, "Oh, baby girl, you scared me half to death, what're you doing sitting in the dark?"

When Bette didn't answer or even acknowledge her presence she walked further into the room. Getting close enough to make out her sister's features in detail, Kit gasped, "Baby girl?" Bette was sitting on the sofa staring blankly ahead, her hands were clasped in her lap and her hair looked like it had been left to dry straight from the shower. Extreme concern building, Kit knelt in front of the younger woman trying to catch her eyes. "Bette?" she pleaded, desperately wanting any response and not really sure how to deal with a situation like this. Reaching out to lay her hand over Bette's clasped ones she asked imploringly, "What's going on, Bette?"

The contact of Kit's warm hand on top of her cold ones shocked Bette back from her trance-like state. "Kit?" she croaked, her voice raspy from crying and lack of use. She blinked a few times trying to clear her mind, wondering vaguely what time it was and how long she'd been sitting there. Focusing on her sister, her voice was devoid of emotion and her eyes seemed dull and flat as she spoke, "You know I hate it when you break in."

Stunned by the lifeless form of he sister Kit looked around in confusion, utterly baffled and concerned. "What's happened? Where's Tina? Is she alright? Talk to me? Little sis?"

Bette pushed to stand, forcing Kit to back up; the stiffness of her legs and pins and needles in her feet told her she'd been sitting for a while. She cleared her throat and said the words for the first time in a hushed voice, "Tina left me." Shocked into silence, Kit's only reactions were eye dilation and jaw dropping. Taking advantage of the moment Bette moved stiffly toward her bedroom, not even turning she added, "And no I don't want to talk about it; just go away and leave me alone, Kit." She walked into her bedroom, and Kit heard the door shut surprisingly softly followed by the sound of the lock being thrown. Even thought she knew she could pick the lock Kit respected her sister's privacy and instead sat down drawing her feet up intent to wait Bette out and get to the bottom of this, whatever it was.

Chapter Eight

With a frustrated and almost pitiful moan Dana pulled away from Alice, their lips detaching with an audible smack, and she gasped for air. "Jesus," she panted, as they both tried to get their breathing under control. They remained that way for the moment, the blonde laying between Dana's open legs her forehead resting on the athlete's upper chest. Dana combed one hand through blonde hair, the other remaining where it had slipped under Alice's shirt, lazily stroking the smooth skin of her back. The brunette bit back a groan as Alice lifted up to brace herself on her elbows and readjusted her hips slightly, the move causing the zipper of Dana's jeans to press into her already aroused flesh. Seeing the brunette's reaction as their eyes met Alice couldn't resist another small thrust of her hips. Dana closed her eyes with a hiss. "Jesus, Al," she groaned. "Don't do that unless you're prepared for the follow through."

Taking pity on her new girlfriend Alice backed off a little and leaned down to lightly kiss the tip of Dana's nose. "Sorry, I couldn't help myself," she apologised with a cheeky grin. "And you were the one that said we should stay out here because the bedroom was too tempting."

"I guess I forgot how resourceful you are," Dana replied dryly, trying to calm her racing heart and with it hopefully the persistent throbbing between her legs. "God, I'm so turned on and we were only kissing," she almost whined in frustration. "Why do we have to be such good friends, couldn't we just sneak off to my place? Please?" she pleaded, though she already knew the answer.

"Baby, you know Tina needs us right now. Her world just fell apart Dane." Alice knew Dana understood, but her libido was another thing. "And I know you really don't want our first time together to be a quickie on my sofa waiting for Tina to pick up her stuff from her house."

"I know," Dana relented. "I'm just a little bit frustrated here," she moaned dramatically, letting herself sink into the couch; bonelessly limp.

Alice smirked. "Well, if it helps we're both in the same boat."

"Yeah," the brunette huffed playfully. "And you were the one who rocked it." She reached up and tenderly threaded her fingers into the blonde's hair before gently pulling Alice down into a soft kiss.

After only a second Alice pulled back slightly, murmuring, "You know, Dane; that was actually kinda witty. Sometimes you surp…mmm…" Dana pulled her into another kiss, this one a little bit more forceful than the last, effectively averting the writer's babble.

Knowing they were headed for a 'no go' area Alice wrenched her lips away from Dana's with a gasp. "Ok, if we're gonna lay like this we need some safe, non-arousing topics to talk about." She looked pointedly at her girlfriend, nodding her head in a gesture for her to hurry up. "Well?"

Trying to think quick, Dana said the first thing that popped into her head. "George Bush?"

Appearing to seriously mull this over, Alice asked, "Junior or senior?"

"God, does it really matter?" Dana questioned back with emphatic disgust.

"No, I guess not," the blonde answered thoughtfully. "Hey," she smirked, slapping Dana on the arm. "You're from Republican pedigree, aren't you supposed to love George 'Dubbya'?"

The tennis player frowned, "Just because my parents are Republicans doesn't make me one. You know I never voted Republican."

Seeing that her jest had hurt, Alice quickly soothed, "Hey, Dane, I'm sorry, baby. I was just kidding, you know that, right?"

Dana's features softened into a weak smile. "Yeah, I know. Just don't kid about that stuff. I mean, it still hurts that they…you know?"

"Yeah, baby, I know." Alice understood Dana's parent's initial rejection and subsequent denial still burned and decided to change the topic. "So, it looks like Shane will get her old job back, from the phone call it sounds like they're pretty desperate for her. Steve Jaffe's threats seem to have done nothing other than make her more sort after."

Thankful for the obvious change of subject Dana pulled Alice into a deliberately chaste kiss before commenting. "Yeah, but it's not surprising that good hair means more than reputation in LA."

"Mmm, I guess," the blonde answered thoughtfully as she laid down fully resting her head on Dana's shoulder. "Maybe I should do a piece on her being the new 'It' hairstylist for A-list LA, really piss Jaffe off." Unable to help herself she tenderly kissed the skin in front of her, then flicked her tongue out to taste, feeling the increased flutter at the pulse point.

"Maybe…mmm, Al," came the breathy reply. "Baby, we shouldn't," Dana whispered huskily even as she pulled Alice up to taste her lips with one hand while her other slipped back under the blonde's shirt. As soon as their lips met they sunk into each other's mouths, tongues striving to taste every surface, and wanting more. Dana groaned as Alice trapped her tongue and sucked on it, feeling the sensation run through her body and centre between her legs in a tingling throb. 'God, I have no self-control…and I love it.'

Setting the hefty bag near the front door Tina turned around to survey her house one last time wracking her brain for anything she might have forgotten. She had only gathered together one big bag of clothes and a few essential items, figuring she'd deal with the more difficult tasks another day. She wandered through to the kitchen her mind awash with seven years of memories, five in this house, that she'd made with Bette; some created and some accidental, some romantic and passionate, and some just plain slapstick funny. There were not only memories of her and Bette, but of all her friends in their numerous gatherings here and the house, 'Bette and Tina's', the designated place to get together, whether it be for a dinner party, poker night, or just pre-drinks before a night out. They had represented the safety and stability that their friends relied on, and that they all craved even if some of them would never admit it. But it had all been a front, sure they had both loved living on that pedestal their friends placed them on, they loved it so much they forgot how easy it was to fall off it.

Her gaze was drawn to the glass sliding door and more precisely the lone figure sitting out on one of the chairs by the pool, where she'd retreated to after opening the door at Tina's knock. Bette's gaunt, pallid features and sunken tired eyes had not gone unnoticed by the blonde and regardless of her own pain the physical and emotional desolation that radiated off Bette left a dull ache in Tina's heart.

Bracing herself she moved to open the door, 'C'mon, you can do this, just remember you're an adult and act like it.' Tina approached Bette carefully not sure what to expect, as she got closer she could see that the brunette seemed lost in thought, a white-knuckled grip on her untouched and now cold cup of coffee. Clearing her throat to announce her presence she sat down on an adjacent chair unnoticed. "Bette?" Still getting no response she reached out and touched her forearm. Bette felt the touch like an electric shock, she flinched and then glanced down at Tina's hand, noticing that she had removed her ring. 'That was quick. Is this it then? I wonder where she put the ring,' she thought absently. Shaking her head in an attempt to think clearly she fixed her eyes straight ahead, unable to look at Tina as she spoke, her voice scratchy and her throat tight. "You've got everything?"

"Ah, yeah, I think so," Tina replied, her voice wavering with the emotions she was trying desperately to keep under the surface. "I just grabbed some clothes and things. Just essential stuff really. I'm staying at Alice's for the moment, so there's not much room for anything else. Ah, is it alright if I leave sorting through the other stuff until I find my feet?" She stopped there, realising that no matter how much she said Bette wasn't going to look at her.

"So, you're really leaving?" The question was forced, Bette's voice low and strained. "For good? It's over then?" she choked out, her voice cracking with a bit back sob. "Just like that?"

"I don't know," Tina whispered huskily. "I just know I can't be here right now. I am so fucking angry with you, and I need some time to come to terms with that and everything else."

Bette looked down at her hands, tears blurring her vision, but she couldn't bring herself to look at Tina and see the anger, regret and disappointment she knew would be written across her features. "I…ahh, don't you…can't we talk about this first? You're just going to walk out, end of discussion. Isn't seven years together worth more, worth at least trying to save?" she pleaded, not trying to hide the tears streaming down her face when she finally turned to look at Tina.

The blonde's head snapped up and her eyes locked with the woman she loved, her anger threatening to boil over. "Don't you dare lay that at my door. I am not the one walking out on us, you already did that, remember? Did you thinking about how much our relationship was worth while you were fucking her?" The question hung in the air not needing further comment as Tina's accusatory glare bored into Bette. Realising that the situation was threatening to spiral out of control the blonde gathered herself and stood. "I really think it would be best if we give each other some space before we even consider working through this," she suggested with a controlled element of detachment.

Bette nodded, but couldn't help the spark of hope at Tina's words. "Do you think we can work through this?"

"I honestly don't know," she sighed resignedly. Part of her wanted to rush to reassure her dejected lover, but realistically she knew it could just be false hope. "I trusted you, Bette, and you of all people know how difficult that was for me. I might be able to forgive you for this, but I'm not sure if I can trust you again," she said with finality before turning and walking back toward the house.

"I'm not him, Tina." Bette's firm declaration stopped Tina at the door.

"I never said you were," she reassured before walking inside and collecting her bag, and then she left, quietly closing the front door on her way out.

Shane stepped out of Lather and into the late afternoon sunshine with a somewhat smug smile plastered across her face. She had her job back, with a promotion and raise, and a line up of A-listers waiting to pay top dollar for her hair styling services. She couldn't help a small, deep chuckle that escaped as she thought of John's desperate plea to get her back, complete with dangled carrots and ego stroking. 'Man, he really did kiss ass,' she thought with a smirk. Internally celebrating her good luck as she walked towards her parked truck, she fished in her pocket for her phone intent on calling Alice to pass on the details. She hit the speed dial for Alice, looking up as she brought the phone to her ear and almost smacking into the man who had purposefully stepped into her path.

"Sorry," she mumbled in a rushed apology not taking notice of who she had run into, planning to skirt around him and continue on her way. A hand shot out and curled around her bicep jerking her to a stop and reeling her around to face him.

"What, I don't even warrant acknowledgment in the street, you dirty piece of whoring trash. You think you're so smart and devious, but you should've kept your nose out of what didn't belong to you." Steve Jaffe trembled with barely restrained anger as he confronted the dark haired woman instead of just letting her go by.

'Fuck, what is it with this family? I'm staying away from them, I just wish they'd leave me the fuck alone.' Jaffe maintained a vice-like grip on Shane's upper arm while waiting for her to respond. Not willing to rise to the hastily thrown insults the woman kept her cool. "Would you mind taking you hand off me, I'm sure it wouldn't look good for you to be seen assaulting someone in the street." Jaffe released her with a shove and Shane flexed her hand at the resulting pins and needles. "Look, I don't really know what you want. I haven't approached any of your family and I don't intend to," Shane reasoned calmly, wanting this confrontation over as soon as possible. "So why don't we both just get on with our lives and never speak again, ok?"

Instead of calming the irate man Shane's demeanour seemed to fan the flames. "You fucked my wife, you little slut!" Jaffe hissed at her, trying to keep his voice low and forceful at the same time.

"Yes, I did," Shane admitted, seeing no reason to deny the fact.

"I should kill you for that," he stated with conviction. "I should break every bone in your scrawny body, but you're not worth the risk." With hatred in his eyes and violent tension running through his body he leaned into Shane and spoke with cool confidence and threatening assurance, "If you come anywhere near my family again the risk won't matter, believe me. I don't like to share Shane, especially with someone so far beneath me it's pathetic, and I will do anything to keep what's mine."

Although Shane appeared cool, calm and collected on the outside, on the inside she was barely holding it together in the face of such sincere threats. She tried to keep her breathing slow and even but her racing heart was demanding more oxygen. Beginning to feel light-headed she thought it best to walk away before she did something embarrassing like faint. As she turned to go the man made a grab for her, "Hey, where do you…"

"Steve, it's been a while." Caught off guard at the familiar greeting Steve Jaffe dropped Shane's arm and spun around to see who was behind him.

"Lara, hi," Steve responded politely although his shock was evident, but he rushed to cover, smiling insincerely. "Look, now isn't really a good time."

Ignoring his attempted deflection she looked to the brunette behind him, having to hold back a laugh as Shane's eyes bugged out in humorous disbelief. "What's going on here?" she asked flatly, without a trace of humour.

Annoyed with her interference Jaffe replied bluntly, "That's really none of your concern." He was intent on dismissing her and continuing his 'discussion', but didn't want to be seen to impolite. "Look, maybe you and your father could…"

"Actually, Steve," she cut him off. "It is more than my concern when you are confronting and threatening my friends on the street." The redhead's usually sparkling blue eyes were dark and cold as she spoke to him with a sense of authority. Sidestepping around the confused man she approached the equally confused brunette and asked, "Is everything alright here, Shane?"

Noticing the way Lara reached out to touch Shane's arm reassuringly Steve Jaffe flicked his eyes back and forth between the two of them drawing his own logical conclusion. "So it's like that, is it?" he snorted. "Like mother, like daughter, huh? Should've known you dykes would all stick together?" He smirked smugly at his own assessment, planning to use it for leverage. "What does your father have to say about this little development then?"

Lara just smiled at him. "That's really none of your concern, Steve," she replied mockingly, throwing his words back in his face. "But I'd be watching what I was saying if I was you, you know, glass houses and all that."

He opened his mouth preparing to reply only to see Lara raise an eyebrow in readiness. Thinking against an all out mud-slinging match in a highly public place Steve Jaffe turned and walked away trying to keep as much authoritative poise about him as possible.

Lara turned to face Shane encountering an abject look of stunned disbelief and confusion. She just smiled at her and shook her head, her eyes once again sparkling with mischievousness. "Well, that's the second time I've saved your ass, McCutcheon, I think you at least owe me dinner."

Part 9

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