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Spend a Little Time With Me
By EponinesGhost

One of the worst things about being in relationship limbo was deciding what to do about gift-giving occasions. Birthdays for example. If you were somewhere between "just/good friends" and "romantically involved" ... or even if you just suspected that you were ... it was a dilemma of gigantic proportions. To err on either side could be a disaster. Something simple, like a frank discussion to determine once and for all where things stood, was completely out of the question. Logic was useless against the specter of bruised feelings. Or a broken heart.

Kelly had lost far too much sleep over the impending arrival of Tracey's birthday. The past few years they'd exchanged cards, several gifts ... shared lunch or dinner invitations as co-workers, then friends. Now ... dammit, why did Tracey's birthday have to come first? It wasn't fair. At least if it were almost Christmas they'd both have to agonize over the issue.

Yesterday in the card aisle she'd been unable to even pick a stupid birthday card. The funny ones were too ... sterile. God forbid she choose one with the word "love" somewhere on it. She must have read over a hundred different candidates before stomping out of the store in frustration.

The one thing she knew with certainty was that time was running out. She was in jeopardy of being empty-handed on the big day.

Personal. That was the key. It needed to be something personal. Something that would truly indicate that it was the thought that counted. And that thought would be .....?

Seeing Tracey happy. She just wanted to make her smile. And with that, Kelly at least had something to work with.

Tracey found the envelope tucked into the corner of her desk blotter. She recognized Kelly's handwriting immediately. "Happy Birthday! K" on a plain white standard envelope. Immediately intrigued, she slit the length of it with her letter opener. No card, no note. Just ... tickets. Two of them. Good ones. Her eyes flew to the doorway where Kelly watched expectantly. In fact, she almost looked nervous, on the verge of blurting out an explanation. Before she could speak, Tracey waved the tickets in her hand.

"These are fabulous ... thank you, Kel. I'm tempted to say 'you shouldn't have' ... but I'm much too glad that you did." She was beaming. "On second thought, you probably shouldn't have ... I know what you make, remember?"

Kelly pushed away from the doorframe, smiling back at her. "I called in a favor, actually. A friend of the family who thinks they're for my parents." She shrugged her shoulders. "What he doesn't know ..." She was incredibly pleased with Tracey's reaction. "Happy Birthday, Trace. Enjoy them."

The obvious relief on Kelly's face as Tracey thanked her had only increased her pleasure, but now Tracey was puzzled. "Enjoy them? You're not going with me?"

"Oh ... I hadn't assumed ... I didn't give them to you so that'd you take me ..."

It was Tracey's turn to be unsure. "If you don't want to go, that's fine ..." She tucked the tickets into the envelope and slid it back where she'd found it.

"It's not that I don't want to ... " Kelly stood fidgeting between the desks. Damn. Why did every little thing have to be so awkward?

Tracey placed both hands flat on her desktop, taking a deep breath before she looked up, staring at her partner for a long moment. One of them had to be the brave one.

"Kelly, would you like to go with me to the theater tomorrow night to celebrate my birthday?" She'd spoken softly, but the silence in the office seemed deafening.

"I'd love to." They were most honest words Kelly had spoken in ages. Neither of them could stop the smiles that crept across their faces. "On one condition ..."

Tracey's eyebrow quirked up. "And that would be ...?"

Taking a small step forward literally, but a giant metaphorical one, Kelly continued. "Since I didn't actually pay for the tickets, you have to let me take you out to dinner beforehand."

"I'd love to."

As they made their way into the Hirschfeld Theatre, and down toward the front of the orchestra section, Kelly couldn't have been happier. Dinner had been wonderful, if guardedly casual. They'd both left the office early, gotten dressed up ... even the small mix-up with their reservations hadn't dampened the mood. The complimentary bottle of expensive and exquisite wine they'd received as an apology was just icing on the cake.

Settling into their seats in the center of the row, Kelly was completely charmed by the bubbly energy that seemed to infuse her companion. If she'd had second thoughts about her present, she'd forgotten them. She would have paid almost any amount of money to see this expression on Tracey's face.

Glancing up from her Playbill, Tracey thanked her for the hundredth time. "How'd you know to get me Sweet Charity tickets, anyway?"

"Well, it's no secret how much you enjoy theater, musicals especially. A. -- I haven't heard you talk about seeing this one since it opened, and B. -- I haven't heard you humming any of the songs around the office. You do that, you know ... after you see a show. A lot." Kelly winked at her. "Truthfully, I thought I remembered you saying how much you wanted to catch this revival but hadn't had time ... and I wasn't sure if I remembered correctly ... or whether or not you really hadn't seen it ... " She briefly looked as nervous as she had while Tracey was opening the envelope. "I'd tried to come up with a back-up plan ... just in case ... but ..."

"You didn't need one. This is perfect." Tracey's eyes swept across the stage and back to Kelly's. "But what?"

Rolling her eyes slightly and exhaling some of her pent up birthday present frustration, Kelly blurted, "You're just so damn hard to buy for."

Tracey laughed. "I am not! Since when? I've always appreciated your gifts ... besides, I think you know me far too well."

"I don't think that's possible."

Taking a minute to process that comment, Tracey didn't know if she should be touched or offended. The light's were blinking, indicating that everyone should take their seats. A fresh ripple of excitement raced through her. "So, from what you said at dinner, I take it you've seen this show before?"

"Mm hm. Back when I was still in school. My mother and I came into the city. I'm anxious to see how this production differs from that one ... how this cast compares." She flipped through the pages of head shots. "I do remember being blown away by the brunette who sang the Big Spender number."

"Oh, I don't know ... I'm kind of partial to blondes."

Tracey had just enough time to catch Kelly's expression -- not quite questioning, but not quite certain if Tracey was teasing her -- along with a slight blush, before the lights dimmed completely. Damn, she could have timed that better. The look on her own face had been meant to convey much more than a reference to casting or particular performances, but she wasn't sure Kelly had been able to read it. There was only one thing she could do.

Without another word, she slid her arm along Kelly's ... finding her hand, threading their fingers together in the dark.

The End

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