DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Trial By Jury & Law & Order and all their characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: First and last lines of all the ficlets written by the ever brilliant flying_peanuts. My eternal thanks. These are all of the vignettes of Serena Southerlyn and Tracey Kibre that I wrote for even_angels_. They are little glimpses of an ongoing life, set in between, or after, or at the same time as my Between Bombay series featuring the same two. Take your pick. Except Breathe Me, which really should be part of the series, say as part number six, but gets ahead of itself. Oh, well. Enjoy. I don't know that anyone will even care to read these, but I was encouraged by racethewind10 and since I have nagged and threatened her all week, it seemed only fair.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SET: after "Breathe Me".
Slow raindrops carved the gates of their sorrow. Her sorrow, at least. They matched the slow fall of tears that left a faint trace of lines on her cheeks. She could hear the rain on the skylight in the bathroom as she stood in the shower. It was the reason that she had taken the apartment. She loved to be able to stand and imagine that above her there was no layer of plaster and wood, but only the gray sky.
She loved to imagine that the water cascading over her was lukewarm New York rain instead of lukewarm New York tap water. Cleansing, washing away all the accumulated grime of her day, of her life. There were enough of the lessons she had learned at St. Bart's left clinging in her mind, like the dried, stubborn leaves of late November to the branch, to make her long for the rain to wash away her sins as well. St. Bart's was a long time ago and prosaically, she knew that she would have to settle simply for the dirt. And the tears.
The pounding of the rain beat a staccato rhythm against the thick Plexiglas cover; slow, erratic, a one-handed snare drum. She reached out blindly, her eyes closed, the only light the faint gloom that shone in through the skylight as dawn broke over the water-logged city, and slowly opened the lid of the jar of sugar scrub. The grapefruit and peppermint scent of it mingled with the thin layer of steam. She scooped out a handful, the oiled liquid seeping through the cracks between her fingers.
She wiped a thick layer of it up the length of her arm, the hardness of the crystals rough against her skin. She began to rub in narrow circles, the pressure of the heel of her hand painfully scraping the scrub up and down her arm. Even in the dull light, she knew that her skin was growing pink. She enjoyed the feel of it. She wondered sometimes if she scrubbed hard enough that perhaps she could uncover not just a new pristine layer of skin, but another her, less hardened, less cynical, less corrupted by the world.
Tracey was gone. Granted she was only working hard on a case and had slipped out of bed sometime in the still dark hours of the morning. She wasn't gone for good. Not yet. But Serena felt at moments like this that it was only a matter of time. Everything always ended badly. She had known that all along; and she had more than a faint suspicion that Tracey knew it as well. Had known it when she stood in the kitchen that night and told her that she loved her.
Liars, both of them. Well, maybe not liars. Lawyers, definitely, well schooled in half-truths and carefully omitted admissions. Tracey had meant what she said. Tracey always meant what she said. Serena knew that, knew that her own declaration of love was as true as any of the other truths she could claim, all subject to review and subtle alteration.
Still, as the shower rinsed away the salt-water of her tears along with another layer of her, Serena couldn't help the small, sad smile that touched her lips. If Tracey were there she would laugh at her, tell her she was being ridiculous.
Silence all of her doubts with that bourbon and honey voice that glided like smooth jazz against her eardrums. Erase all of her fears with the not-so-gentle slip of her hands along Serena's body; each trail of her fingers across the curve of Serena's breasts, each slow swipe of her tongue against tender, sensitive flesh like an eraser on a whiteboard, leaving behind only dust and the faint suggestion of what might have been words.
But Tracey wasn't there.
As she turned off the faucets, the level of noise dropped, so that the only sound was the fingers of rain drumming rhythmically on the skylight. The light in the morning sky was just bright enough now that she could make out the scratches and faint gouges in the thick plastic of the skylight. She wasn't sure why she was up. It was Saturday.
She didn't have to work today. Her new job was far less intense than being an ADA, and for now at least, weekends weren't a regular thing. Still, her body's internal clock had awoken her at the regular time, and considering the empty coolness of the sheet beside her, she had decided to simply get up.
Maybe she could get done some of the twenty things on her perpetually growing and never accomplished to-do list. Laundry. Dry cleaning. Pick up a new flash drive for her computer. Exchange the sweater a friend had given her for a "Hey, I know you just got fired, but this might make you feel better" present, the reddish orange one that Tracey had laughingly said made her look choleric.
It wasn't until she had slipped off her night shirt and had stepped under the spray of the shower that it had hit her; the tightness in her chest, the feeling of something weighing her down, like the heaviness of a wool coat and hat in a warm room; claustrophobic, confining, dragging at her arms, restricting her breathing.
Sending tears to slide over the soft curves of her cheekbones.
She and Tracey had made love last night, after Tracey arrived home, spent and exhausted at 1 am. She had slipped into the bed beside Serena, her hands cold as she curled up behind her and reached around to cup Serena's breasts through her thin nightshirt. Her mouth however was warm and insistent along the slender curve of Serena's throat as she sleepily turned to meet Tracey's lips.
They had fallen asleep wrapped around each other, legs tangled, brown and gold hair intermingled on the pillow.
Life was good.
And yet, stepping out of the shower, the tears continued, as if they had a right to be there, some claim on her morning. She'd have to recheck her schedule, but she was quite certain that she hadn't made an appointment with this brooding, misplaced melancholy. At least not for today.
She was being an idiot. She knew that she was. She knew that Tracey loved her. Despite the snide looks and the derisive comments from some colleagues, Tracey was very open about their relationship. Serena had a great new job, that she genuinely loved, where she had the very real opportunity to do some good. She had everything that she had always thought that she wanted. Life was good. Too good.
It couldn't last. Twenty years of witnessing first hand the rewards of having it all; the brittle silences, the dinners where no one spoke, the Christmases spent at some exotic resort, because anything was better than having to fake another season of familial joy. Her parents had it all.
Their life was good, wasn't it? They had had security and fulfilling careers and someone always there at night. So where had it gone wrong? When had it all been reduced to a sad mockery of what it had been?
Serena realized that she was overwhelmed by the fear that this wasn't real, that what she had now with Tracey wouldn't last. That was it. That was the reason that she sat on the edge of the tub, eyes red and nose running. Scared that all good things must end.
She watched the tears fall from her down turned face to the tile floor of the bathroom. And reflected in each tiny drop were moments of time; Tracey laughing; the slender line of her throat thrown back in abandon; the gentle precision of Tracey's hand moving over her skin; the tangle of fingers in her own hair, urging her closer; Tracey's face, sweet and happy as she bought Serena a pretzel from her favorite stand. Random, inconsequential moments. A film by Virginia Woolf.
And with each drop of moisture that fell went one more of her fears. Tumbling, they unraveled on a fleeting reel.
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