DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Trial By Jury and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to Kim for taking on the roles of sounding board and beta. Dedicated to a special group of friends who've reached or will reach the 40th milestone on their previous/next birthdays.
CHALLENGE: Written for P&P's Life Begins at Forty Challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Leap of Faith
By Ann


Peals of joyous laughter mixed with an occasional raucous variety of the same rang throughout the small bar, the various groups of patrons each engaging in their own private celebrations, whether it be a job promotion, a night out with old friends, a career high bowling score, or in the case of the two women who sat in a booth near the door, a celebration of victory in a hard-fought criminal case. Tracey Kibre was on cloud nine.

"I just loved seeing that smug smile melt off that bastard's face when he first heard the guilty verdict."

Kelly smiled and nodded in memory of the moment. "I don't think I've ever seen a defense attorney turn quite so green." Chuckling, she sipped from her glass, careful not to gulp her drink. She needed to make sure she kept her faculties about her tonight as she wasn't so certain she'd be able to turn her boss down should Tracey suggest they take their 'party' somewhere a little more private. The previous times had left Kelly feeling cheap and ashamed, especially as Tracey had stolen away during the middle of the night and then acted as if nothing had transpired between the two of them when Kelly had arrived at the office the next morning. As usual, Tracey had started in on a new case and hadn't given Kelly time to breathe, much less offer any type of greeting.

"Harrison?" Tracey asked, an elegant eyebrow rising slightly in amusement. "I hadn't noticed. I was too busy watching Johnson. He actually thought he was going to get off scot-free." She tossed her head back and downed her drink, motioning the waitress over with a flick of her fingers. "But good to know Harrison got his, too."

Kelly drew her gaze away from the inviting, creamy white skin of Tracey's neck, her memory of tracing her tongue along the same path the fiery liquid had just traversed still very fresh in her mind even though it had been weeks since her palatable journey. She could still taste the fine wine and fresh strawberries they'd consumed that evening, along with another uniquely exquisite flavor that could solely be attributed to Tracey and Tracey alone.

Making a quick show of glancing at her watch, Kelly swallowed hard, trying to rid the memory from her mind and tamp down on the delightful taste that had resurfaced on her taste buds. She reached across the seat for her purse to complete her ruse that she had somewhere else she needed to be, hoping she'd be able to avoid another round of drinks – Tracey was dangerously close to her 'let's go back to your place' quota – when a low sexy voice sounded from the end of the table.

"Hello, Tracey. Long time no see." Sparkling blue eyes held Tracey's gaze, before the woman turned and offered a quick wink to Kelly. "Good to see you again, Kelly."

"Serena," replied Tracey, her usually in control voice on the verge of sounding very much out of control. Even her cool demeanor appeared to teeter on the edge of unraveling. She seemed to struggle to maintain her composure at unexpectedly running into her old lover, their on again/off again relationship having ended completely long before Serena had been fired by Branch for reasons not associated with her sexual orientation – or so the DA had claimed.

"I heard you won the Johnson case," Serena offered, adding a smile to her words. She, like so many others, had been following the high profile case and had been very pleased with the final verdict. "Congratulations, that was a huge win." Momentarily turning away from the two seated attorneys, she tugged her companion closer. Tracey hadn't noticed the petite woman that had walked in with Serena, but Kelly certainly had. The woman was absolutely gorgeous. "Oh, where are my manners? Tracey, Kelly, this is Carol Travers, she works in real estate."

"Pleased to meet you both. I've heard a great deal about you, Tracey." Carol offered her hand and smiled, a genuine smile, not at all like the one Tracey had forced onto her features. Of course, Carol didn't have the same worries Tracey did. Tracey knew absolutely nothing about Serena's date.

"Oh?" The word slipped from Tracey's mouth before she could call it back. She recovered quickly though. "All good, I hope." Tracey knew damn well that odds weren't in her favor, although she truly couldn't blame Serena for badmouthing her seeing as how she had kept her distance from Serena after the firing, other than a couple of obligatory phone calls. It didn't help that she felt so damned guilty either.

"Very good," replied Carol, turning her attention to Kelly. "About you, too, Kelly." The woman had manners, too, thought Kelly as she reached out to shake Carol's hand.

Serena stepped closer to her date and eased an arm around Carol's waist. "I wish we could join you, but we're meeting friends." She gestured across the bar at a very lively pair that had begun to shout out the couple's names and motion them over. "Maybe sometime soon?"

"This is just a business celebration. Kelly and I aren't a couple. I'm sure she has better things to do on her own time," said Tracey matter-of-factly. She didn't notice the hurt look that crossed Kelly's face nor was she aware of the stabbing pain that had sliced through her assistant's heart at her words. As usual, Tracey was oblivious to everything but her own thoughts and fears.

On the verge of tears, Kelly quickly scooted to the edge of the booth, cursing herself for ordering that last drink. Alcohol always made her more emotional. "If you'll excuse me, I need to visit the ladies room." She managed a smile for Serena and Carol as she pushed to her feet. "It was good to see you again, Serena. Carol, nice to meet you." With one last nod, she hurried away, a single tear slipping free and making its way down a smooth, pale cheek. She increased her stride and reached the entrance to the restroom just as the floodgates broke, releasing tears she'd been keeping at bay for the past few months. Until Tracey had actually said the words aloud, denying the possibility of them being a couple, Kelly had held firmly on to a thin string of hope. She should have known better.

"Carol, why don't you go on over and join Sally and Martha? I'll be there in just a minute." Serena squeezed her lover's hand in silent communication, and as always, Carol received the wordless communiqué and understood its intent.

"Okay," she said with a return squeeze as she turned her attention back on the seated woman. "Good to meet you, Tracey." With a peck to Serena's cheek, Carol released her lover's hand and walked away. Serena didn't waste a single moment as she slid into the booth across from her ex-lover.

"You really are an ass, Tracey."

"Wha-..." Tracey began, surprise evident in her features. Her dark eyes widened and her jaw dropped even further when Serena continued her attack.

"You're going to let your fear ruin the best thing that's ever come your way," warned Serena, accentuating her words with a poke of a finger in Tracey's direction. "Well, other than me," she added teasingly, "but we both know we're too much alike. It would've never worked, even if you hadn't been too scared to try."

"Hey! I wasn't scared!" Tracey's surprise gave way to anger and the fight was on. Her arguments with Serena were almost as good as the hot sex they'd engaged in... almost.

"Yes, you were, but not nearly as scared as you are now. You're fucking terrified."

"I am not!" Tracey objected strongly even as her brow creased in confusion. Not that she minded arguing with Serena, but it would be nice to know exactly as to what she was arguing about. She just needed to be guided out of the dark without actually asking to be let in on the topic of their conversation. "What makes you think I'm scared anyway?" She sat back against the smooth wood of the booth and waited. She could play this game even if she didn't know its rules or its name either, for that matter.

"Let me ask you a question first," said Serena, mimicking Tracey's position as she sat back against the hard wooden seat. "How many times have you slept with Kelly?"

"Wha-..." Tracey head whipped around, and she nervously glanced toward the ladies room. She knew the name of the game now.

"Her place or yours?" asked Serena, crossing her arms and tilting her head in question. "Did you wait for her to fall asleep and then sneak out?"

Tracey sat up straighter. "That is none of your business."

"Ah, so her place and you did sneak away. And I'm guessing it was business as usual the next day. Kind of like when we first started out, only it was much easier to avoid me, wasn't it?"

"Serena, ..." Tracey practically growled the other woman's name, but it didn't seem to deter Serena in the least.

"You may fool her, Tracey, but you can't fool me. I've seen you with her. I've watched you watch her. You never looked at me like that."

"Yes, I did." Once again, Tracey's mouth overrode her brain's command to keep silent. This conversation needed to come to an end and answering Serena was not the way to go about it.

"Oh, I know you cared for me, Tracey, just as I cared for you. But this is different; this is something that goes deeper. You can actually see yourself growing old with Kelly, can't you?"

Tracey laughed cynically, her facial expression looking as if she'd tasted something bitter. "I'm old now, Serena."

"You aren't old, Tracey. That's just a cop-out," accused Serena, having actually had a short conversation about age once before with the older woman. Tracey had squashed that exchange by rolling Serena over and having her wicked way with her, and Serena had been quick to point out, after she'd adequately recovered from her orgasmic bliss, that Tracey had just single-handedly – no pun intended - disproved the age difference argument they'd had earlier.

"It's not a cop-out. Want to see my driver's license?" Tracey had no intention of letting Serena see her date of birth, but it was the perfect come-back. Her photo made her look ten years older, too, should she ever have a need for physical evidence.

Serena just stared across at the other woman. Tracey had her patented glare in place and showed no signs of backing down. She'd forgotten that Serena knew her better than anyone else.

"Is it Branch? Are you afraid he'll find out and fire you, like he did me?"

"He wouldn't dare." Tracey turned smug. "I know where most of the bodies are buried."

"Okay," chuckled Serena. "Then what's the problem?" She watched her friend closely, noting the slight narrowing of her eyes. Tracey wasn't worried about herself. She was worried about... "Kelly. You think he'll go after Kelly."

Tracey broke off eye contact and settled her gaze on the distressed wood of the table's surface. Serena had always been able to see past the façade Tracey had taken years and years to perfect. It was definitely better for them to just be friends.

"I think he might. If he finds out that is." Tracey raised her head and focused on caring blue eyes. "You of all people know how small minded he can be."

"Just make sure he doesn't find out, or better yet, threaten him with the location of those buried bodies." Serena didn't take the bait Tracey had carelessly cast across the short distance of the booth. She stayed focused on the current topic instead. "You owe it to yourself to see this through, Tracey. You deserve to be happy."

Tracey wanted to see it through, she truly did. Hell, she wanted it more than anything, but dare she pull Kelly into the unknown with her – a virtual abyss with no visual walls or floor to steady or ground them, just the two of them left alone to find their way?

"Um, excuse me. Serena, could you hand me my purse? I think I should be going." Kelly's voice sounded different, low and gravelly, as if she hadn't used it in weeks. Tracey's gaze snapped on to the other woman and took in the drastic changes that had taken place since they'd first arrived at the bar. Kelly kept her head down and her focus on the seat beside Serena.

"I think it's time I joined my friends," said Serena, gripping Kelly's black bag as she pushed to her feet. "Please, don't leave on my account."

"No, I really should go." Kelly reached for her bag and eased the strap over her shoulder. "I'll see you Monday, Tracey."

"Actually," said Tracey, tossing a fifty on the table and grabbing for her own purse as she slid from the booth to stand next to her assistant. "I don't think I can wait until Monday."

"Wha-..." Kelly's sudden loss of vocabulary sounded suspiciously like Tracey's had earlier. She looked directly into Tracey's dark eyes, temporarily forgetting the stark red rings that lined her own. Tracey spared a quick glance at Serena and then reached down to take Kelly's hand.

"C'mon, let's go to my place, it's closer." With a slight tug, she started for the door, Kelly following closely behind. "Serena," Tracey called out over her shoulder just before she stepped out into the night air, "I'll call you next week."

Serena smiled brightly as she watched the couple disappear from view. Sometimes you just had to jump, and other times, you had to first be nudged toward the edge. Regardless, the leap itself was all that really mattered.

The End

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