DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Trial By Jury and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A very special thank you to Debbie for taking on the job of beta for this fic as well as the 22 others and especially for agreeing to write her specialty, Birds of Prey, as part of this 24 fandom series. Thanks, Deb, I truly do appreciate it.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Exhaust from the lines and lines of cars stalled in the morning traffic crept into the poorly sealed window of the cab, overwhelming the blonde who sat uncomfortably on the broken back seat. No matter where she shifted, she managed to find another spring that poked into her ass. Tired of being a human pin cushion, Kelly Gaffney threw some bills over the seat of the taxi and climbed from the car, hoping the walk would improve her less than pleasant disposition, but she hadn't counted on breaking a heel when she stepped onto the curb, or the headache that seemed to come out of nowhere. With a grimace, she limped heavily down the sidewalk, blaming Tracey Kibre, every step of the way, for her misfortunes.
Forty-five minutes later, a cold and wet Kelly stepped into the elevator of Tracey's apartment building. She'd been prepared when the raindrops had started to fall, smiling as she'd pulled the umbrella from her bag. It was when she'd pushed on the button for it to open that she'd frowned. Seconds later, a heavy downpour had dropped buckets of rain on her and her unopened umbrella just as the wind decided to accompany the hard rain. With the sudden change in weather, Kelly had made a firm decision, and lowering her head, she'd turned around and headed in the opposite direction, away from the courthouse and the ADA offices towards Tracey.
Inside her warm, dry apartment, Tracey was in the process of gathering up her coat and briefcase when her phone began to ring. Irritated, she crossed the room and grabbed it from its cradle.
"Those papers had better be on Branch's desk," she barked into the receiver, already knowing that Kelly wouldn't have let her down. She frowned at the voice on the other end. "Oh, sorry, Carl, I thought you were someone else." She half-listened to her building's security officer.
"Sorry to bother you, Ms. Kibre, but I'm calling to inform you that we've been having a bit of a problem with the elevators, and . . ."
Tracey cut him off. "That's okay, Carl. Everyone in the building knows not to use the elevators when it's storming outside." Mr. Worthington, Tracey's neighbor, had made the mistake a few months ago and had spent hours in the elevator before someone was able to repair it.
"Um, well, you see, Ms. Kibre. There's another reason why I'm calling," said Carl, his voice raising an octave. He knew better than to make Tracey angry, but this time, he simply had no other choice. "Your colleague somehow got by me and was in the elevator before I could call out a warning. I hadn't had time to put the 'out of order' sign out."
Tracey furrowed her brow. "My colleague?"
"Yes, Ma'am, that young, blonde assistant of yours."
"But if the elevator is out of order, then there shouldn't be a problem, right Carl?"
The security officer shifted from foot to foot, so very grateful he wasn't having this particular conversation face-to-face. "Well, it was still working at the time."
"Working as in?" Tracey was quickly losing patience.
"From the first floor to just below yours." Carl blurted out the elevator's status as quickly as he could. He nervously rubbed his neck, wondering if Tracey had the ability to reach through the receiver and choke him.
"Just below mine? So, the elevator has stopped between floors?" She paused, adding, "And Kelly's inside?"
"Yes, Ma'am, that about sums it up. I've got a call into the repairman."
"You tell him to get that elevator working as soon as possible," Tracey growled into the phone. "And Carl, I need access to the elevator's phone . . . now!!!"
Just below the third floor, Kelly stood inside the stalled elevator, her feet frozen in the exact same spot as when the car had stopped with a hard jolt. She'd closed her eyes several times in the past five minutes, only to reopen them and find herself in exactly the same situation. Taking a deep breath, Kelly eased to the floor and concentrated on her breathing. This was bad; this was very, very bad.
"Sorry you had to come down to the desk, Ms. Kibre," Carl apologized, still amazed at how quickly Tracey had managed to climb down three flights of stairs. He motioned toward a plain-looking phone on the far side of the desk. "That's the direct line to the elevator. If you push the red button, the phone inside the car becomes activated." He watched Tracy make her way over to the phone and muttered softly, "At least I hope so."
Lifting the receiver, Tracey pressed the red button, which in actuality was the only button, and waited for any sign of Kelly's voice. She was instead greeted with silence. With the phone still at her ear, she turned toward the security officer.
"Does this phone even work? I can't believe there isn't some way to communicate with individuals who are stuck in the elevator. When Kelly gets out of there, I'm gonna ." A timid voice sounded softly in Tracey's ear.
"Hello? Tracey? Tracey, is that you?" Kelly had thought she was hearing things when the soft chirp had sounded in the wall of the elevator, and it had taken her a few seconds to realize where the noise had come from. She'd snatched the receiver from its holder, and Tracey's voice had echoed in her ear. It had been the most beautiful sound in the world to Kelly.
Tracey wheeled around and turned her back to Carl, her reply soft and gentle. "Kelly? Are you okay?"
"Tracey? Oh God, Tracey, I'm stuck in here!!! Get me out!" Kelly's so-called minor case of claustrophobia reared its ugly head in a big way, her previous attempts to stay calm forgotten the moment she'd heard Tracey's voice.
"Kelly, calm down. There's a technician working on the problem as we speak." Tracey shot a glare over her shoulder. "Carl, the security officer, is doing everything he possibly can to speed up the process." Carl gulped loudly and nodded, before racing from the room to find the repairman. Tracey watched him almost trip over his feet as he fled, before turning her attention back to her assistant. "Now, you need to stay in control."
"In control? In control! How in the hell can I stay in control when I don't have any fucking control over the situation!" Her breath coming faster and faster, Kelly began to hyperventilate. She was totally unaware of the manner in which she'd spoken to her boss.
"Kelly Gaffney! You listen to me, and you listen to me now. I want you to close your eyes and put your head between your knees. Then take slow deep breaths." Tracey eased her tone with every word, her mind racing with possible ways to distract her assistant. She went with her gut instincts instead. "Did you deliver those papers to Branch's office like I asked you to?"
Kelly was following the instructions Tracey had given her to the letter, but she continued to listen to the voice of her lifeline. She was just having too much of a problem breathing properly to answer Tracey's question. As always, Tracey refused to be ignored.
"Kelly, did you hear me? I asked if you made the delivery to Branch." The edge returned to Tracey's voice, and Kelly responded immediately, a bit breathless, but she managed.
Kelly blew out a much needed breath and rushed her words. "I called Joanna to do it." She sucked in another quick breath, deciding that talking and breathing were no longer compatible with each other.
"Good, that's good." Tracey shifted the conversation to Kelly. "Why did you come here this morning?" She suddenly found herself more interested in the answer than in keeping Kelly's mind occupied.
"Because " Kelly decided that one word answers were less stressful to her current manner of breathing. She'd forgotten how much Tracey hated vagueness.
Tracey rolled the desk chair over and took a seat. "Because why?" She closed her eyes and shook her head. She sounded like she was trying to reason with a two-year old.
"I needed to see you."
Kelly took a deep breath and blurted out her reply. "The letter."
The one and two word conversation was driving Tracey up the wall, but since Carl hadn't returned, she figured there must be a problem getting the elevator back into working order. She gamely plodded on. "What letter?"
"Don't play dumb, Tracey; the one I left in your briefcase last week." Kelly's voice was much stronger, practically growling the words out, in much the same manner as her boss had earlier. It seemed Tracey had struck an exposed nerve.
Tracey pulled the phone away from her ear and stared down at it. Her plan was working too well. Kelly had actually snapped at her. She narrowed her eyes and moved the phone back to her ear. "I don't play dumb, Kelly. I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."
"Oh please," replied Kelly, her words laced with sarcasm and dripping with venom. There no longer seemed to be a problem with her breathing her blood pressure perhaps, but not her breathing.
"Excuse me?" A shocked expression came over Tracey's features, and she made a mental note not to allow her assistant to get into another elevator.
"I finally have the guts to pour my feelings into a letter, and you totally dismiss me and my words. I deserved better than that."
"Now, you listen here, Missy. I don't know what in the hell . . ."
"Ms. Kibre? The technician needs for your assistant to try pushing the floor button again." Carl swallowed hard at the speed in which Tracey turned. For a second, he thought she was going to attack. His eyes widened at how quickly she recovered.
"Kelly? Carl needs for you to press the floor button."
"No?" Tracey turned her back on Carl and spoke softly, but forcefully. "You push that goddamned button, or I'll climb down the fucking shaft and do it for you. You got that?"
Silence ensued for several seconds until Carl's walkie-talkie came to life with a current report from the repairman. "The elevator is on its way to three." Carl looked at Tracey and pasted on a weak smile.
Slamming the phone into its cradle, Tracey marched past the security officer and headed for the stairwell. If the three flights of stairs didn't kill her, she was going to kill her assistant when she finally set eyes on her.
The trip up the stairs had been much more difficult than the trip down, although Tracey was fairly certain adrenaline had something to do with it. When she'd realized Kelly was stuck in the elevator, she'd been insane with worry. Kelly had told her several years ago about the time she'd been accidentally locked in the broom closet of her parents' home, telling Tracey that ever since then small enclosures had been a real problem for her.
Pushing the stairway door open to the third floor, Tracey started toward her apartment. If Kelly thought being stuck in an elevator had been a problem, dealing with a pissed off Tracey was going to be far worse. Rounding the corner, Tracey spotted Kelly sitting down beside her door. She looked so small and defeated, her clothes wet and wrinkled, her hair plastered down in some spots while sticking straight up in others, her feet bare, and her shoes held loosely in her hand.
All the wind went out of Tracey's sails at the desolate scene before her.
"Are you okay?" Tracey avoided eye contact with her assistant, concentrating instead on putting the key into the lock. She turned the knob and pushed the door open. "C'mon, I'll put on some coffee." Without a word, Kelly eased to her feet and moved inside, heading directly for the large window that looked out over the city.
Kelly stared out the window the entire time Tracey busied herself in the kitchen. Now that she was here, inside Tracey's space, she had no idea what she was going to do. So lost in her thoughts, she never noticed Tracey return, and she certainly didn't see her reach inside her briefcase, searching through its contents, to pull a cream-covered envelope from underneath a stack of folders.
Looking down at the envelope, Tracey turned it over and over, her eyes taking in Kelly's elegant handwriting with each flip of the card. She had no idea how she could have possibly overlooked the note, but she guessed she must not have seen it when she'd haphazardly thrown in the files as she'd always done. Picking up the cup of coffee she'd laid on the sofa table, she started toward her assistant, the unopened envelope still in her hand.
"Here, drink some of this." Tracey thrust out the cup, and Kelly took it without looking, slowly sipping the liquid as she kept her gaze on the skyline. Tracey kept hers on the envelope. "I found the letter."
Kelly turned quickly and almost dropped her cup to the floor. There, in Tracey's hand, was the letter she'd slipped into the briefcase last week. It was obvious that it was still unopened. She swallowed hard, not able to form a single word.
"What do you want me to do? Read it or let you tell me what it says?" Tracey kept her voice even. She wanted nothing more than to rip open the letter and read its contents. She hated being left in the dark.
Tears filled Kelly's eyes as she stared down at the reason she'd traversed half-way across the city in the pouring rain. Tracey hadn't dismissed her; she hadn't even read the letter. Kelly wondered if her heart could handle any more disappointments.
"Kelly? Would you rather just have it back?" Tracey couldn't believe what she was offering, but it was apparent that whatever the letter held was very upsetting to her assistant.
"Read it," Kelly replied hoarsely as she turned back toward the window. She couldn't bear to see any kind of rejection projected back at her. Tracey hesitated for only a moment before she moved to the sofa and took a seat. Sliding a finger under the flap, she pulled the letter free and began to read.
My dearest Tracey,
I can no longer work beside you every day and keep my feelings for you buried so deeply in my heart. From the first case to the last, I'm in constant awe of your amazing talent, your endless drive, and your overwhelming desire to right all wrong. Your passion for the job is second to none, and I find myself trying so very hard to follow in your footsteps, but somewhere along the way, my vision got blurred and I found myself desperately needing to walk beside you instead. I know that in all probability you don't feel the same way, and I can't say that I'd be surprised. I've never been lucky in love before, so why should I start now? So, it is with great regret that I formally request to be considered for reassignment in the department, and if that's not possible, then I shall tender my resignation as soon as you're able to find a suitable replacement.
The breath left Tracey's body; she now knew exactly how Kelly felt when she was trapped in the elevator. No one had ever written or spoken so eloquently about their feelings toward her, and never had Tracey actually reciprocated the feelings. In short, she was stunned.
Kelly counted the seconds until they turned into minutes with still no response from Tracey. Lowering her head, she focused on the hardwood floor, her mind following the distressed pattern of the dark wood instead of focusing on the situation at hand. It was easier to distract herself than to face what she knew to be true. Tracey didn't feel the same way; her feelings were one-sided.
She jumped when a pair of slender arms wound their way around her waist and pulled her tightly against a petite body. A voice whispered in her ear.
"We need to take this slow, Kelly. I'm not used to dividing my attention between a lover and my job. I can be overbearing at times."
Kelly laughed and placed her hands on top of Tracey's; overbearing was putting it mildly. "I happen to think you're worth the effort."
"Okay, I just want you to know what you're getting into." Tracey leaned her chin on Kelly's shoulder. "You need to get out of these clothes."
Kelly tensed but immediately calmed at Tracey's next words. "You're soaked to the bone. I can't believe you didn't have enough sense to get out of the rain."
Turning in Tracey's arms, Kelly leaned in close and whispered. "People in love do crazy things."
With a grin, Tracey inched closer. "Yeah, I guess they do."
Lips pressed together gently and then more firmly as the sun broke through the clouds and shone brightly on the skyline, bringing with it a promise of wonderful things to come.
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