DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Trial By Jury and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Tracey/Kelly established relationship. Can be read as a continuation of If Ever I Fall.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Something Here Inside
By EponinesGhost


With all due respect for Sir Elton, Tracey Kibre begged to differ. "Sorry" wasn't even close to being the hardest word. In the top three maybe, definitely top five material. Being argumentative was a talent she had been born with and had honed into a sharp skill over her lifetime. She actually got paid for it. She was so good at it that she rarely noticed that sometimes her toughest opponent was the other voice inside her head. Didn't matter. Either way she won those -- if they ever reached a resolution.

Right now, lost in an all too familiar tussle with herself, she could think of a few words that she'd put above the titular song subject.

"Please" for instance. It was at least as strenuous as "sorry."

Not one prone to ever ask for help, it had mostly languished in her vocabulary's attic. Now she was contemplating rooting around for it, dusting it off. Life had a way of resuscitating all forms of "just in case" storage.

This particular situation required everything to be in working order. No stone left unturned. As she rolled the words around inside her head, arranging them in rough draft form, she wished for all the world for a Dorothy Gale to show up with an all-purpose oil can. Damn, she was rusty.

She had to be honest. Above all else. Sincerity was a must. Anything less would be digging deeper, not out. But the words themselves would be important too, possibly even critical. "Critical" ... that was certainly a double-edged sword wasn't it? She'd already used the sharp side, now she had to find a way to minimize the scarring.

Maybe if she practiced out loud. That worked for court. Pacing behind the sofa, she cleared her throat.

"Please ... can we please go back and pretend that I wasn't a complete ass earlier?"

Almost before the phrase formed she was shaking her head. Too flippant, even if it were her most fervent hope. She rubbed her hands together absently, trying to somehow summon the perfect plea. Finally clasping her fingers together, she tried again.

"What can I do to make it up to you? Please tell me ... whatever it is ..."

Growling in frustration Tracey clenched her fists before running her fingers roughly through her hair. That wouldn't work! Wasn't fair. That was throwing the burden back, asking for too easy an absolution. As badly as she wanted it, she knew that receiving it without the proper effort would make it all .... wrong.

There was another word she had some issues with. Only when and if it applied to her, of course. It flowed like fine wine when she was directing it toward someone else. Using it now, no ... owning it now ... that might be the most transparent way to show the magnitude of her remorse.

Raw and direct. "I was wrong. I was so wrong."

She prowled back and forth over the same stretch of carpet she'd been wearing out since the door had slammed shut -- rattling the pictures and causing the security chain to swing in a mesmerizing manner while she'd watched, stunned. Once it had stilled, she hadn't stopped moving. Her mind desperately racing.

Now she was practically chanting. "It was me, I was wrong. Completely wrong. So fucking wrong." With each stride she became more emphatic. "I'm sorry. I was wrong." Her voice stronger, infused with more and more emotion as she let the words reflect the true depth of their meaning.

"I was wrong. I'm so sorry. I don't know what I was thinking, saying ... but I know I'm so damn sorry. Please ..."

The last word tapered off into a whisper as she saw and heard the door knob turning. One hand dropped to the back of the sofa to steady her as she froze in place, anxious and elated. Her breathing sounding unnaturally loud as everything switched to slow motion. Every cell in her body seemed to be screaming at her to rush forward, yank the door open ... but she couldn't manage one simple step.

This tortured defiance of her will was only magnified when Kelly finally faced her.

Kelly's jaw was set, her cheeks flushed. Although the tell-tale signs of serious crying remained evident, Tracey could tell that the gorgeous blue was unnaturally bright with still unshed pain. At that observation, she felt the sting of a thousand cuts prick her own eyes, threatening to blur her focus in more ways than one.

What she couldn't see, couldn't read, was that everything she'd agonized over ... every realization she'd uncovered ... was written plainly on her face. She missed the slight softening of Kelly's expression, was barely aware of the catch in her breath as she came closer and closer to where Tracey had become overwhelmed and motionless.

When it seemed that Kelly was about to speak ... to release her ... Tracey miraculously gained some dexterity and was able to signal with her hand for silence. Pleading with her eyes for time to recover her speech. To go first. She swallowed reflexively, trying to relieve the tightness of her throat, to calm the tremor that promised to shake her apart.

"... I'm .... " Her mouth moved soundlessly then, though the mantra she had clung to still echoed through her mind. Exhaling without air, she forced herself to try again. " ... I ... "

Unbidden her fingers found their way to Kelly's temple, her thumb wiping away the last trace of a tear. The gentleness of her touched belying the fierce struggle within. "Kelly ... I ... " Her voice was soft but sure, so sure. "... love you."

The impact was immediate. Crushed in Kelly's arms, her legs weak with relief, held up only by the strength of this embrace, she continued, her lips brushing the soft damp skin of Kelly's cheek. "I'm so damned sorry." Alternately kissing as she spoke. Feeling Kelly's hand and breath in her hair. "I love you."

Tracey marveled as she repeated them again and again, effortlessly. This was right.

And they were the easiest three words she'd ever meant.

The End

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