DISCLAIMER: Karen Sisco and its all characters are property of Jersey Television. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A very special thanks to Debbie for the beta and for the wonderful idea.
CHALLENGE: Written for the FemSlash Advent Calendar::Dog Days of Summer 2008
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Not a single light shone in the small neighborhood where the houses were set far apart and a good distance from the street. A woman sat on a porch bench and marveled at the quiet the night provided, so different from the bright lights and constant noise found in the city. Maybe this was what she needed time to sort out recent events and put things into perspective. Headlights from an approaching car temporarily disturbed the darkness and caught the woman's attention. As by habit, she moved her hand to the weapon strapped to her back, her senses on alert, ready to face whatever danger came her way.
Distracted by her thoughts, the driver never noticed the figure highlighted by the lights of her car, nor the dark sedan parked next to the curb in front of her house. She just wheeled into her driveway as always; her mind replaying the afternoon and yet another encounter with Detective Marley Novak. Karen smiled in memory of the collision between the man she'd been chasing and Marley. Well, rather the collision between the man and the concrete wall when the detective hadn't been one bit amused by having her cappuccino knocked from her hand. She'd swatted the small-framed man into the wall without a second thought, but the wide smile that had formed on Marley's face when she'd spied the marshal walking toward her had almost stopped Karen in her tracks. Confusion didn't come close to defining the way she felt about Marley. There was just something about the detective that seemed to always keep Karen off-balance.
From the porch, the woman watched as Karen turned off the ignition and stared blankly out the windshield into the darkness. It was obvious that something, or someone, was on the marshal's mind. She'd seen that look a time or two and was easily able to put a name on it - Karen was smitten. Pushing to her feet, the woman smiled and started for the car. She'd made the right decision coming to visit her old friend.
Karen felt more than saw someone step from her porch and walk toward her. Her hand instinctively reached inside her purse lying on the passenger seat and gripped the handle of her gun tightly. Slowly, she slid the weapon free and readied to defend herself, but the stride of the intruder was familiar, the gait recognizable. Karen eased the gun back into her purse and placed her hand on the door handle. Climbing from the car, she engulfed her friend in a tight hug. Somehow, Jillian always knew to come around when Karen was in need of a distraction.
"What are you doing here?" Karen pulled away and smiled at her friend. Jillian rarely called ahead. Showing up unannounced was more her norm.
"Thought I'd come down and see what you're up to." Jillian eyed Karen from head to toe and then back again. She grinned widely. "Looks like 5'5" to me."
Karen slapped her friend on the shoulder and turned back toward her car. Quickly retrieving her purse, she slammed the car door shut and locked arms with Jillian as she led her friend to the house. Yes, Jillian was just what she needed to take her mind off Marley Novak.
"Jeez, Karen, you still make the best lasagna in the world." Jillian pushed her plate away and leaned back in her chair, making a show of rubbing her stomach. "If I ate like that every night, I'd gain 25 pounds."
Karen sipped her wine and looked over at her friend. The tall blonde could easily pass for a model. "You've eaten like that ever since I've known you. You never gain so much as an ounce."
"Yeah, well, I'm older now. My metabolism must be slowing down. I gained two pounds last year." Jillian pushed her shirt up to display the added weight. Karen stared at the firm abdomen and quickly looked away. She didn't need to be reminded what Jillian's naked body looked like. She'd seen it every day for four straight years, but until recently, she'd never thought about what it would be like to touch another woman intimately.
"Better wash these dishes before the pasta gets too sticky." Karen jumped from her chair and grabbed the plates. She was through the kitchen door before Jillian could blink. Frowning, the other woman pushed her shirt back down and reached for their wine glasses, wondering why Karen had suddenly become so skittish.
In the kitchen, Karen turned on the water and began to scrub the caked cheese from the plates, her mind going ninety to nothing. What was wrong with her? Jillian was just a friend, granted a lesbian friend, but a friend nonetheless. Jillian's sexual preference had never bothered her before, so why did it now? Karen wrinkled her brow. No, it wasn't Jillian's sexual preference that was bothering her; it was the idea that she'd looked at her friend differently. For the first time, she'd seen Jillian as a woman, not as a friend who just happened to be a woman.
"Hey, scoot over and let me in. You cooked; I'll wash." Jillian hip-checked Karen out of the way. "You go find us a movie to watch. We haven't done that in ages."
"Um, okay," said Karen, already starting for the door. She'd normally argue with her friend, but she needed a few minutes alone to regroup. "I'll pick a couple and let you choose."
"Okay, but nothing sad. I'm not up for it tonight." Jillian rinsed off a dinner plate and reached for another. Karen had already left the room.
Fifteen minutes later, Jillian stared down at two DVD box sets Lethal Weapon and Terminator. "Got anything a little more um . . . light?" She lifted her eyes and tilted her head. She should've added nothing violent either to her request.
Karen shrugged and moved back to her collection. Turning her head to the side, she began to read the titles, skipping right over her copy of Kissing Jessica Stein. She still wasn't sure why she'd bought that one, but it had been in her shopping cart before she could change her mind. She hadn't even taken the plastic off it yet.
"How about Bridget Jones's Diary?"
"Oh yes, a little British humor fits the bill perfectly." Jillian smiled and patted the cushion next to her. Karen just chuckled and placed the DVD into the player. She'd wait until later to find out why Jillian had come for a visit.
Half-way into the movie, Jillian placed her head in Karen's lap, her eyes never leaving the screen. "I wouldn't mind finding someone myself, you know."
Karen's head snapped down in shock. She stared at Jillian, expecting her friend to meet her eyes and then laugh, but Jillian only sighed. She'd meant what she'd said. Jillian, the same woman who planned to be a perpetual bachelorette, was serious. Karen ran her fingers through blonde strands. "Where is this coming from?"
"I don't know. I guess I've gotten tired of coming home to an empty house."
"Jillian, you're gone two to three weeks of every month."
Flipping onto her back, Jillian turned her head toward Karen. "I've requested to move to a desk job."
Karen eased her stroking motion. "Desk job? But you love being out in the field; that's all you've ever wanted."
"Things change." Jillian smiled sadly and moved her focus back to the television. The only words spoken for the rest of the evening were decidedly British.
Karen checked her watch and increased her stride. She'd promised to meet Jillian for lunch, and she was running half an hour late. When she stepped into the restaurant, she heard familiar laughter, in fact two familiar laughs. Nodding at the hostess, she made her way further into the room. It didn't take long to spot Jillian and the woman who sat across from her.
"Hey, sorry I'm late. Oh, hi Marley." Karen stood next to the booth and shifted from foot to foot, unsure as to who she should sit beside.
"Hey, Karen, I ran into a friend of yours. Marley heard me give your name to the hostess, and we struck up a conversation. I hope you don't mind that I invited her to join us." Jillian gestured to the mugs of beer. "Sorry, we started without you."
Decision made, Karen slid into the booth next to Jillian. "I'm still on the clock." She looked over at Marley. "You off today?"
"Yes, and tomorrow, too." Marley took a sip of her beer. "I offered to show Jillian around since you're working."
Forcing a smile, Karen said, "Oh, that's great. I hated that I couldn't get off at the last minute, but Phil's already on vacation." She spared a glance at Jillian and noted the huge grin on her friend's face. She'd already set her sights on Marley.
"That's okay, Karen, I didn't give you any notice. I didn't expect you to take off work." Jillian may have been addressing Karen, but she hadn't even bothered to glance her way. That would've meant she'd have to take her eyes off Marley.
"You ready to order now?" A perky waitress stepped next to the table, and Karen had never been so glad to be served in her entire life. She'd been witness to Jillian's different conquests over the years, but she'd never known the intended 'target' before and she'd certainly never had feelings for the person Jillian had gone after.
"I'll have a beer," said Karen, drawing a rich laugh from Jillian. Karen just smiled at Marley. If she was going to have to sit and watch as her old friend tried to sink her hooks into her new one, alcohol was a must. It would be okay though she'd just have the one.
An hour later, Jillian and Marley helped Karen into Marley's car.
"Karen's car is just down the block. Give me a minute, and I'll follow you." Jillian gripped the keys tightly and started down the sidewalk. Marley watched the other woman for a moment and then climbed into her car. She glanced over at the passenger seat as a worried expression crossed her face.
"I'll call Amos and tell him that you aren't feeling well."
"I can call him." Karen kept her eyes focused on the floor mat. She was hurt and confused, but most of all, woozy. She should have never had that first beer. Once Jillian had started in on Marley, Karen had ordered one after another. The fact that her body had a very low tolerance of alcohol certainly hadn't helped either. Her only saving grace was that liquor didn't loosen her tongue, instead having the opposite effect she clammed up tighter than any clam possibly could.
Marley reached over and gently squeezed Karen's shoulder. "Let me; I don't mind."
Karen had to force her reply, wanting nothing more than to dig the mother of all holes and climb inside. "Um, okay. I don't think I could sound too convincing anyway."
Smiling, Marley gave Karen a light pat and started the car, waiting until she spied Karen's car pull out from its space before she eased away from the curb. Karen moved her focus to the passenger window, not actually seeing anything past the glass. Thoughts of Jillian and Marley smiling and laughing kept running through her head.
The sun was just setting when Karen finally began to rouse. A moan split the air, followed shortly thereafter by a single eyelid lifting. Karen rolled her head to the left and squinted at the clock on the wall 7:58.
"Somebody shoot me." Her words fell on deaf ears. She was alone in her bedroom. Easing to the edge of the bed, she placed her feet on the floor. "Never should've had that beer. I should've just walked away."
After a quick trip to the bathroom and a splash of water on her face, Karen made her way to her kitchen, before the soft sound of the television drew her toward the den. She was surprised to spot red hair instead of blonde on the woman sitting on her sofa. With a deep sigh, she slowly made her way over. She wasn't looking forward to this particular apology.
Marley continued to flip through the channels, keeping her focus on the TV instead of the woman who had entered the room behind her. The conversation she'd had with Jillian after the other woman had put Karen to bed had been quite enlightening.
Karen eased into Marley's view and glanced around the room. "Where's Jillian?" She'd hoped to only have to apologize once. Lying was difficult enough as it was.
"She's gone out," said Marley, looking over at the marshal. "How's your head?"
Wincing slightly, Karen shrugged and suddenly found the fabric of the sofa very interesting. Leave it to Marley to go straight to her drinking indiscretion. She moved to the nearby recliner and plopped down rather ungracefully.
"You didn't have to stay, Marley. I feel as if I've monopolized your day off."
Marley shifted in her seat. "I know I didn't, but . . ." she hesitated, but followed through anyway. " I'd much prefer spending time with you instead of washing, dusting, and vacuuming."
A light shade of pink painted Karen's pale cheeks, and she once again moved her gaze to the material of the couch, not bothering to point out to Marley that they hadn't actually been spending time together up until now. She supposed anything would be better than house chores, but even though there may have been a teasing tone in Marley's voice, there was a bit of a wistful one as well. The easiness that had always seemed to exist between the two had suddenly shifted to an air of nervousness with a hint of uncertainty. Karen was certain that it was her fault.
"You could have gone out with Jillian. She's a lot more entertaining than me." For whatever reason the detective had decided to stay behind, Karen felt she needed to give Marley an out. "You could still meet up with her." Looking up, she met Marley's gaze. Truth be told, the idea of Marley and Jillian out on the town together was far more upsetting than Karen had expected as a feeling of uneasiness began to make its way through her, ending with a gnawing sensation in the pit of her stomach. She half-heartedly chalked it up to her over-imbibing; she really was a light weight when it came to alcohol.
"She's gone out with a friend of mine. I think Jillian will have much more fun with Kara; I'm not much of a dancer." Marley smiled and added, "I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to keep up with Jillian on a dance floor."
"No one can keep up with Jillian, and I'm not just talking about the dance floor either." Karen laughed and settled comfortably in the recliner as a memory of Jillian from their college years pushed its way forward. The easiness had returned. "Our junior year, one of the fraternities sponsored a mixer of sorts, and Jillian . . ."
An hour later, Karen had moved to the other end of the sofa with one leg folded under her and the other in a position which allowed her to place her foot on the floor. Marley had crossed one long leg over the other and turned toward Karen, placing an arm across the back of the sofa as she listened to various stories of Jillian's antics through the years. She watched amused as Karen wiped the tears from her eyes.
"To this day, the dean has no idea who snuck into his office and stole their clothes. He and his secretary were too busy screwing on the top of his desk to pay attention to anything else. You should've seen the smug look on Jillian's face when she got back to the dormitory with their clothes neatly tucked away in a backpack."
Chuckling, Marley said, "You know, I'm still a bit surprised Jillian never tried to make a move on you."
"Me?" Karen looked shocked. "No way, besides I'm not Jillian's type."
Marley was certain that Karen was exactly Jillian's type, but she held on to her thoughts and took advantage of the opportunity to ask a question she'd always wondered about. "What is your type, Karen?"
"Huh?" Karen frowned. How had the conversation turned to her? She shrugged. "I don't know if I have a type."
"Sure you do; everyone has something they're looking for."
"I have to be drawn to a person." Realizing the person she was currently drawn to was sitting directly across from her, Karen attempted to turn the tables. "Okay then, what's your type?"
Marley raised an eyebrow and tilted her head. She smirked and turned blue eyes on the marshal. Karen shifted uneasily in her seat; she had no one to blame but herself for her current predicament she'd asked.
Karen stumbled for words. "Um, what I mean is . . ."
"I know what you mean." Marley gentled her smile. "Do you mind if I ask you a different question?"
A look of relief came over Karen's face. "Please do."
"Actually, it's a two-parter Why did you order a beer today and then proceed to order more?"
Karen never dreamed she'd prefer the question as to 'her type,' but she'd have given anything to get it back. She looked down at her hands, not at all surprised to note the fidgety motion. Normally, she'd have come back with a cheeky answer, but something told her Marley wasn't going to let this one go.
On the other end of the couch, Marley waited patiently, already having an idea as to the answer to her question. She and Jillian had had a long talk after the other woman had returned from Karen's bedroom. Jillian had said Karen only drank like she had at lunch when she was celebrating something, drowning her sorrows, or extremely jealous. The pair had quickly narrowed the reasoning down to jealousy, and Jillian hadn't been too surprised to discover that Karen more than likely had feelings for another woman.
"I'm very " started Karen, still focusing on her hands as she searched for the right word. Marley inched forward and reached out, placing her hand on top of Karen's. The other woman swallowed hard and struggled with her emotions. Finally, she met Marley's gaze. ". . . confused."
"Confused about what?" Marley spoke softly and squeezed Karen's hand in reassurance. What she really wanted was to pull Karen into her arms and promise that everything would be okay, but she needed to hear the words. She needed confirmation to her and Jillian's suspicions.
"You," whispered Karen. "I can't get you out of my head." With the one exception of Karen's heart, Marley couldn't think of anywhere else she'd rather be.
"Karen, are you saying . . ." Marley purposely left her sentence unfinished, not wanting to put words in the other woman's mouth. Karen needed to say them, for both their sakes.
"I like you, Marley. I really like you." Karen felt like she was in junior high; only there, it was usually the person's best friend who delivered the message. Marley didn't seem to mind the plain, simple words just as long as it was Karen who said them. She broke into a huge smile.
"I like you, too, Karen." A comfortable silence ensued as each woman was content to just smile at the other. Marley finally broke the spell, saying, "We'll take things slow and see where it takes us. I'm not going to pressure you; you can trust me."
"I do trust you, Marley. I'm just a bit scared at the moment." Karen held on to Marley's hand tightly, counting on the other woman to do just as she'd promised allow Karen time to get used to the change in their relationship.
"Don't be scared, Karen; it's just me." Marley could barely keep herself from running into the street and shouting out her excitement, but instead wondered if perhaps a nice, quiet dinner would calm the both of them. "Hey, what do you say we go to that Mexican restaurant you're so fond of and get a bite to eat?"
The mention of her favorite restaurant brought a full-blown grin to Karen's face. Her headache and stomach problems immediately disappeared. "You're on. Let me go put on some shoes." Pushing to her feet, Karen hurried to her room while Marley leaned back against the sofa, grinning like a fool. A few minutes later, they were headed out the door.
"I still find it hard to believe that Jillian has never tried to make a move on you."
"Nah, like I told you, I'm not her type." Karen stepped off the porch and started toward Marley's car. The detective smiled knowingly and closed the door behind her, increasing her stride to catch up. It hadn't been by accident that she'd chosen Kara to take Jillian dancing.
Across town, Jillian shimmied up to the 5'5'' brunette and gripped the other woman's hips, pulling her tightly against her body. Kara was just her type. With a cocky grin, Jillian began to bump and grind against the willing woman. When she got back to New York, she was going back into the field, but for now, she intended to thoroughly enjoy herself. This vacation her supervisor had forced her to take had indeed been an eye opener.
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