DISCLAIMER: Law & Order and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
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.
Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
Stacks of files, haphazardly placed along the front of a worn wooden desk, obstructed the view of the chair's occupant to the door and vice-versa. Only a few strands of blonde hair could be seen by the woman who stood in the doorway. She smiled and leaned against the facing.
"Any more files and you'll have to dig your way out from behind that desk," a low, smooth voice filtered its way over the tops of the manila folders.
"Alex?" said Serena Southerlyn as she tried to peer around the wall of files, finally standing when she realized she'd have to move the stacks to see her friend. "What are you doing here?"
Alex pushed off the wall and moved further into the room. "Can't I just stop by and visit my friend?"
Serena paused, thinking back on the last few times Alex had surprised her with a visit. None of them had fared well for Serena. "Oh no, I'm not going out with your friend, or a friend of your friend, or a cousin of a friend of your friend. That goes for Olivia's friends, too." Serena sat back down in her chair. "Find some other sucker."
"Now Serena, I had no prior knowledge that Jessica Winters was into BDSM. She seemed like such a lovely woman."
"Yeah, right up until she led me into her bedroom, showed me her orgy-sized bed, opened her closet, and asked me to choose my leather collar." Serena shivered in memory, she'd never run so fast in her life and hadn't spoken to Alex for weeks afterward.
Alex moved around the side of the desk and sat in the chair along the wall. "I really didn't know, Serena." Crossing her legs, she leaned back in her chair. "I'm not here to try to set you up with anyone."
Serena narrowed her eyes. Alex had used that line before, too. "Like the time you asked me to meet you and Olivia for dinner, and Sally Norton just happened to be sitting at your table? That woman was certifiable. I almost had to get a restraining order issued against her."
Alex fidgeted in her chair. "That was Olivia's doing, not mine."
"So, when you extended the invitation, you had no idea what Olivia had planned?" Serena crossed her arms and glared at her friend. Olivia never did anything without checking with Alex first.
Alex's grimace and non-response were all Serena needed. "That's what I thought."
"But this time there isn't an ulterior motive, I promise." Alex certainly looked sincere. "Olivia is working late tonight, so I thought you and I could go out together. Like old times."
"Except I'll still be looking and you've already found someone." Serena sighed. "It wouldn't be the same."
Alex stood and moved next to Serena, carefully leaning against the desk's only empty space. "C'mon, let's just go out and have fun, just for fun's sake."
Serena looked at the stacks of files and then at Alex. A little fun might be just the ticket; she'd been working too hard as of late. "All right, but I'm not looking for anyone, got it?" She waited for Alex to nod her agreement. "Where do you want to meet?"
Alex grinned. "There's a new bar that's just opened over on 9th and West 42nd. It's country-western night."
Serena groaned; she hated theme nights.
Walking through the ever familiar haze of smoke, Serena stepped into the bar and glanced around the room, her eyes checking out the various patrons as she searched for Alex. She guessed some habits never died.
"Serena! Over here!" Alex's voice carried over the din of the music, and Serena turned to spy her friend sitting on a stool next to large open area, her hand on the empty seat beside her. With a smile, Serena began to weave her way over.
"You dog," greeted Serena as she eased onto the stool, "I see you got us a front row seat next to the dance floor action central."
"No, the dance floor is at the other end of the bar." Alex pointed over her shoulder. "I found something much better."
"Better than dirty dancing?" asked Serena, raising her eyebrows as she gazed in the direction Alex had gestured toward. A partial cow-like body extended from a metal pole that was firmly attached to a circular padded base, a bed of hay surrounded the base and floor of the closed-in area. Her face eased into a frown. "What in the hell is that?"
"A mechanical bull, the bar is having a competition tonight," supplied Alex with a huge grin. "Maybe we can find you a cowgirl."
Serena glared at her friend. "I'm not looking, remember? Besides, she'd probably lasso me and tie me to the bed."
"And that would be bad how?" asked Alex, winking as she signaled for the waitress. Serena just groaned.
Thirty minutes later, both women were sipping on their bottles of beer and cheering for the competitors in the bull riding competition.
"Yee-haw, ride'em cowgirl!" Alex and Serena yelled out in tandem. The rider promptly flew from the bull and landed a few feet away in the soft hay. The cheering crowd gave her a big round of applause.
"You know something, Alex? This is the most fun I've had in months." Serena gave out a whistle to the downed cowgirl. She'd been the best so far.
"Olivia's going to be sorry she had to work. She'd have loved this."
"She'd have signed up for the competition." Serena laughed, easily picturing Olivia climbing on the bull and daring it to buck her off.
The sound of the announcer caught their attention, and they both leaned forward, ready to cheer the next rider on.
"Ladies, here's our last ride of the night." A chorus of 'awws' echoed around the ring, but the announcer was quick to reassure the crowd, "Don't fret, Ladies, you're in for a real treat. Straight from the state of Texas, a real-live, honest to goodness cowgirl give it up for Abbie!"
The crowd went wild as a tall brunette, wearing a black felt cowboy hat, strode confidently into the arena, her fitted western shirt tucked smoothly into a pair of skintight black jeans. A pair of alligator boots and a large silver belt buckle completed her wardrobe. Serena's jaw almost hit the railing.
"Holy shit; it's Abbie Carmichael!"
Alex laughed out loud and shouted with the rest of the crowd as Abbie easily mounted the bull and looked right at home. Grinning, Alex wondered if Serena would change her tune about the lassoing and tying to the bed if Abbie was on the other end of the rope. Her mind went into overdrive just as the bull began its motion, and by the time the ride had ended, with Abbie still sitting comfortably atop the bull, Alex had a plan.
"Be right back," she said, pushing to her feet and quickly scooting away before Serena could ask where she was going. She needn't have worried; Serena hadn't yet come out of the trance she was in.
That ride had been the sexiest thing Serena had ever seen. She replayed the scene over and over in her head, adding her own version to an already stimulating one. She was deep in the land of erotica by the time Alex returned.
"Scoot over, Serena," ordered Alex, pulling her friend from her wonderful dream of tandem bull riding.
"Huh?" Serena looked up to see Alex standing beside Abbie Carmichael. The tall beauty was grinning down at her. She nearly slipped from her stool when she made the move to change seats.
"I invited Abbie to join us for a beer." Alex eased onto the stool Serena had vacated, while Abbie moved to the one on the other side of Serena.
"Hello, Serena; how've you been?" Hearing Abbie's low, gravelly voice so soon after imagining the sexy US District Attorney sprawled on top of her, while the bull's motion maintained a slow and steady rhythm, almost had Serena sliding to the floor, but she managed to squeak out a reply.
Alex smothered a chuckle, knowing her friend was rarely flustered by anything, especially by anyone. She turned up the heat.
"What did you think of Abbie's ride, Serena?"
"Um," Serena swallowed hard, her mind flashing to the way Abbie had rocked her hips and pelvis in perfect synchronization. At that moment, she'd really wanted to be that bull. "I think she'll win."
"Yeah, me, too," Alex concurred with a grin, hoping that Serena ended up being the grand prize. "Definitely no contest; Abbie was clearly the best."
"I don't know about that," said Abbie, lifting her beer bottle to her lips. Serena watched, mesmerized, as the liquid flowed down a long sexy neck, before settling her gaze back on the bottle that was pressed firmly against full lips. She wondered if she should be worried about her latest desires to become inanimate objects.
The chirping of a cell phone had all three women reaching for their belts, but it was Alex who came away the victor. "Cabot." She paused. "Oh, hey Olivia, what's up?" Holding up a finger to indicate she'd only be a moment, she moved to a quieter area of the bar.
Abbie took immediate advantage of the situation; she'd always been curious about Serena. "So, how's Jack these days?"
"Pushing every envelope he can get his hands on." Serena took a healthy swig from her bottle and tried to relax. At least Abbie hadn't asked her what she was doing in a lesbian bar; although, it would open the door for her to ask the same thing.
"Still a pain in the ass then." Abbie nodded in understanding. "Has he made a pass at you?"
"No, and he'd better not if he wants to keep his manhood." Serena was dead serious. She hated womanizers.
Tossing her head back, Abbie let out a deep, smoky laugh, and Serena almost melted at the sound. Looking over her shoulder, she searched for Alex, not trusting herself if she was left alone with Abbie for much longer.
"Now you've got me wishing that he'd try," teased Abbie, scooting closer to Serena and motioning her closer. Serena hesitated briefly, before leaning toward the other woman. Making a show of looking around, Abbie whispered, "I can show you a technique we used to use down on the ranch."
"For what?" Serena hadn't realized that she'd whispered her question, or that she'd leaned even closer to Abbie. Well, she might have been somewhat aware of the latter of the two as the leg that was currently pushing against Abbie's was becoming quite warm.
"Castration," answered Abbie, completely straight-faced as she stared into Serena's clear, blue eyes. This close, she could see a slight dilation, and she was reminded of the article she'd read last week while waiting outside the offices of a business man she was to interview. Eye dilation was supposedly linked to attraction.
"Hey you two, sorry about cutting out on you," said Alex, her return not noticed by her friends until she spoke, but then Alex had seen the way they'd been sitting close and whispering to each other; she hadn't expected them to notice her. "There's been a break in the case, and I've got to go secure a search warrant."
"Hey, no problem, Alex." Abbie reluctantly moved back into her own space. A few more seconds, and she'd have tested the eye dilation theory.
"Oh, I should go, too. Alex is my ride; I took a cab here," Serena offered, starting to stand, but she stopped all movement when Abbie reached over and put a hand on her arm. Serena couldn't suppress the shiver that raced through her.
Abbie swallowed her grin; it seemed the theory did indeed hold water. "Why don't you let me take you home, Serena?"
"What a wonderful idea." Alex chimed in before her friend could decline. "Besides one of us needs to stay and cheer for Abbie when she wins the bull riding contest."
"You sure you don't mind, Abbie?" asked Serena, terrified to stay, but just as terrified to go. She hadn't been this attracted to someone in a very long time. What if Abbie was the one?
"No, I don't." Abbie offered a promising smile. She'd like to see if there was something, too."
"Okay, I'd better run. Abbie, it was so good to see you. We'll have to get together and have lunch sometime." Alex turned toward her friend. "Serena, I'll call you later." With a wink, she was gone.
"What do you say we move to the bar and get another beer?" asked Abbie, gesturing toward the long, wooden bar across the room. "Then you can buy me another one to console me when I lose."
Serena stood and pulled Abbie to her feet. "I'll buy you another one when you win." Abbie laughed and started forward, tugging a willing Serena behind her.
An hour later, the voice of Waylon Jennings crooned from the speakers next to the dance floor as dozens of couples held on to their partners tightly and swayed to the melody, oblivious to their surroundings, only having eyes for each other. In the center of the floor, a tall brunette cradled her shorter partner close. A red, white, and blue ribbon hung loosely around the blonde's neck, a gold medal imprinted with a bucking bull firmly tied to its end.
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