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Seeing Red
By EponinesGhost

Chapter Nine

Kelly didn't know how many shocks to her system she could handle in one 24 hour period. The last thing she'd expected as she'd entered the office was to come face to face with Tracey. Not at this hour, not after the events of the day. Instinctively, she'd drawn her hand up to her chest, as if to hold her heart in it. Slowly she lowered it as she peered at Tracey's face, trying to determine her mood.

"How did you know I would come back?" Only after the words had left her lips did she realize how loaded they were.

Tracey was almost casual. "Hector passed along your message ... said you'd indicated that you'd be by to pick up some files ..."

Her head swinging around to inspect the surface of her desk, Kelly searched for any sign that something else had erupted in her absence. Why else would Tracey ...

"... and there was something that I needed to discuss with you. So I waited." Tracey shrugged.

She knew that she was being vague, but now that Kelly was here, right in front of her, she felt like she was moving at half speed. Once she had made up her mind that she wasn't going home tonight without at least attempting to resolve this ... mess ... her patience had settled around her like a blanket. There had been a few moments when she had taunted herself ... wondering if she were willing to sit there all night. But for the most part, the silence, the shadows, had been just the antidote for the abrasiveness of her day.

Finally calming, in no small part due to the measured tone of Tracey's voice, Kelly settled back against the desk. "Is anything wrong? Did your lunch meeting take a turn ...did Branch ... "

Tracey was surprised her own steadiness. So much was wrong. She wasn't even sure where to begin.

"No, no, no ... it's nothing like that ..." She paused, gathering her thoughts. "I wanted ... I needed ... to tell you something."

As usual, when she was wrestling with an approach ... how to use a phrase for maximum impact, full emotional appeal ... Tracey weighed her options. The longer, more rehearsed explanation might be clearer ... eventually. But the simpler more straightforward path was the most attractive. She was tired of the obstacles, twists, and turns. Standing up, she tossed aside any of the hundred or so opening lines she'd practiced for this moment, going instead to what they all boiled down to:

"I'm sorry."

Everything about Tracey's demeanor had Kelly's rapt attention. She couldn't look away from her partner's face, was drawn to her slightest movement. Almost leaning forward to catch each word. Tracey's simple apology baffled her. She wasn't sure she understood why it was being offered, and she wasn't sure what she should say in response. Thankfully, Tracey didn't seem to be expecting an answer, beginning to pace back and forth as she continued.

"Last night ... when I spoke to you ... I was unforgivably rude ..." She glanced briefly at Kelly.

"... which was completely and totally uncalled for ..."

Fascinated Kelly listened, uncertain which direction this was going. She knew better than to disrupt Tracey's train of thought.

"It's just ... I wasn't expecting ... I was just so ... startled to see you there ..." Tracey exhaled at the memory. "You and Ravell ..."

Warily Kelly wondered if Tracey had merely been upset to run into colleagues while she was with Rochelle. She knew how private Tracey was, how guarded she kept her personal life. That might explain her reaction ... having those separate sides of her identity so abruptly collide, worrying that her co-workers might not be as protective or respectful of her wishes.

Attempting to reassure her, she ventured. "He's a good guy, Tracey."

The brunette seemed to sway slightly as she halted in place. Her tone tightened noticeably. "Yeah, well ... I didn't know ... that ... you two ... were ..."

"Friends?" Remembering the care, compassion and concern Chris had shown her, Kelly realized that the word was appropriate.

Snorting softly, Tracey resumed her pacing. "Okay."

Whatever. She'd come this far, she was going all the way. Whether it made a difference or not. "So I was ... angry ... when I saw you together." She cut her eyes over to Kelly's.

For a frantic moment, Kelly thought this was going to be some kind of anti-fraternization lecture. She knew what she desperately wanted Tracey to be saying, but she had been far too bruised crawling out on that limb before. Tracey was going to have to come to her. She raised and lowered her hands in a helpless I-don't-get-it gesture.

Pressing on, Tracey's voice grew rougher. "I was so ... jealous ..." She took a deep breath. "I know I had no right to be ..."

"No ..." Kelly interrupted. "You had no REASON to be."

No reason at all. No reason to be jealous of Ravell, no reason to be jealous of anyone else when you were standing there with such a stunning redhead on your arm.

Tracey finally stopped moving back and forth like a caged animal. She took a step in Kelly's direction, her eyes as dark as Kelly had ever seen them.

"I acted like a total bitch because ... right or wrong ... the idea of you being with him ... the thought of him touching you ... made me crazy." She moved even closer, the air around her virtually humming with intensity. "It nearly killed me to think that it was all ... that I might never ..." Closing her eyes, she dropped her head down, struggling for control.

Kelly was thunderstruck. There was no mistaking the meaning and emotion behind Tracey's words now. Or the way she had been looking at her ... a parade of shivers raced down her back and exploded at the base of her spine. Oh god.

Barely breathing she repeated, "You might never ...?"

Lifting her head again, Tracey erased the final distance between them. The heat and tension radiating from her body was palpable. Her gaze piercing, raw. Now her voice was quiet, but harsh with feeling. "I might never get to do this ..."

Slowly she raised her hand up to Kelly's face. Using only her fingertips, she traced the contours of her lips, brushing over them almost reverently. She nearly melted when she heard, then felt, Kelly's breath catch in her throat, warming her fingers when it escaped. Letting her hand slip sideways along Kelly's cheek, she trailed her thumb over the lower lip, rubbing ever so softly ... her eyes torn between it and the irresistible blue depths above it.

"Or this ..."

Sliding her fingers into the silky blond hair, exerting gentle pressure, she tilted Kelly's face toward her for a delicate, whisper-soft kiss.

Part 10

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