A Matter of Trust: Part 4

by Radcliffe


WARNING: The stories on this page are about the love between two women and may contain explicit love scenes. If you are not 21, or are offended by this type of love - do not go any further. By continuing you are consenting that you are of legal age to read further.

COPYRIGHT INFO: All stories are original works and are copyrighted by their respected authors. Please do not copy them, link to them or redistribute them without the author's permission.

Chapter Ten

When Michael answered the knock on her hotel room door at exactly 8pm Friday night, she was momentarily speechless. Sloan stood before her, dashingly turned out in a finely tailored charcoal pin-striped, pale gray tuxedo, complete with a pleated white shirt, French cuffs, a navy cummerbund and white bowtie.

"You look... magnificent," Michael finished, laughing as Sloan responded with a small bow.

Sloan searched for words, mesmerized by the vision of Michael in a black silk dress that hugged her sleek figure, thin straps at the shoulders accentuating a tantalizing expanse of décolletage exposed by the low sweep of the clinging bodice. The soft swell of her breasts was just a promise beneath the exquisite material, but it was enough to send the blood rushing from her head to the depths of her belly. Her throat was suddenly dry. She was aware that she was staring as the silence between them lengthened, but she was having trouble catching her breath. Finally, she brought her gaze to Michael's, where blue and indigo fused, and they smiled into one another's eyes.

"You're beautiful," Sloan whispered, finding the words completely inadequate.

Michael colored slightly, inordinately pleased. Why did a compliment from Sloan make her heart beat faster?

"Thank you," Michael said, reaching for Sloan's hand and pulling her inside. "I'll just be a minute. I have to get my things."

Sloan stopped just inside the door, watching Michael move about the room, graceful and sure, as she seemed to be in everything she did. Sloan reminded herself that she was a friendly escort only, and that she had best keep her eyes above shoulder level for the rest of the evening. Her inability to control her autonomic nervous system around Michael Lassiter was becoming embarrassing, and more than a bit physically uncomfortable. Unfortunately, avoiding Michael's body wasn't enough to place her beyond danger, because just looking at Michael's face could devastate her. It went beyond her classic features and her flawless skin and her breathtakingly beautiful blue eyes; there was a tenderness in her gaze and a gentleness in her voice that laid soothing hands on Sloan's wounded places, tempting her to believe in miracles.

"Sloan?" Michael inquired lightly, surprised to see her still at the door and wondering at Sloan's hesitation to enter the room. It was so unusual for her to appear uncertain. "Do you need anything?"

Sloan shook her head, thinking, if you only knew. Quickly, to hide her agitation, she answered, "I'm sorry. No, nothing. I'm fine."

Michael wasn't sure she believed her, but she simply nodded, tossed a light jacket over her arm, and closed the door firmly behind them. She was going out with friends and she intended to have a wonderful time. As they walked to the elevator, she glanced sideways at Sloan, struck suddenly by her bold strong profile and panther-like fluidity. She thought again how attractive Sloan was in that dangerous sort of way that wild animals had. She had always been tempted to put her hands through the bars of the leopard's cage at the zoo just to feel those sleek, stalking muscles ripple under her fingers. It had always made her just a little breathless. Looking at Sloan was like that – being with her was a little like that too. No one, male or female, had ever quite captivated her attention the way Sloan seemed able to do. Being with her, talking with her, simply sharing Chinese take out in a deserted office building seemed to produce a slight shimmer of excitement. When Sloan looked at her with that piercingly intent stare, Michael felt like she was the only thing that mattered to her.

MIchael caught her breath at that thought, realizing that she had unwittingly been thinking of the evening almost as a date. She laughed inwardly at her own foolishness. She had never been attracted to a woman before, and even if she were, Sloan had more than enough women to choose from without giving her a second thought. Silly.

"Michael?" Sloan asked, faint concern in her voice. "Are you all right?"

Michael returned from her unconscious reverie to find Sloan standing by the curb, holding the passenger side door of her Porsche open, a slightly bemused expression on her face.

"Yes, of course." She smiled and slid into the roadster, ignoring the slight tingle in her arm where Sloan's fingers brushed against her skin.

As they drove across town, Michael watched the city life through the window. Men and women in elegant evening wear hurried to the theatre, teenagers bedecked in all manner of piercings, tattoos and outrageous outfits crowded the sidewalks, and tourists watched the other passersby with curious fascination. Everywhere couples held hands, heads bent close, laughing and talking in that intimately exclusive manner that only lovers shared. Michael was suddenly envious of something she had never been aware of missing before - that unique connection to another human being that defies definition, but is so common to human understanding that poets and writers and composers have tried to capture it for centuries. She ached in some primal place that her rational mind, with the reminder of all her accomplishments, could not assuage.

"Are Sarah and Jason dating?" she asked abruptly, searching for something to take her mind from the emptiness she had no inkling how to fill.

Sloan was silent for a second, recalling Sarah's excitement when she informed Sloan that she had asked Jason to go with her to the benefit. She replayed the conversation in her mind, deciding how much to reveal in answer to Michael's question. Sarah had been standing next to her in the locker room before their workout, barely able to contain her enthusiasm as she told Sloan the story.

"He tried to tell me he couldn't because Jasmine was performing, but I knew damn well there were two hours during dinner and the speeches before the Cabaret routine. And then, there's the gala afterwards. I think he actually squirmed when I pointed that out to him." Sarah's eyes had twinkled with laughter at the memory.

"That would explain his twitchiness at the office all day," Sloan had remarked. "Every time I spoke to him, he jumped. I think he might even have spilled his coffee once. For Mr. Perfection, that's unusual."

Sarah's face had clouded, and Sloan was instantly sorry she had said anything.

"Why is he so nervous, Sloan? We get along so well, and he knows I know about Jasmine."

Sloan remembered trying to ignore the question, hoping Sarah would let it go. She busied herself pulling on her sweats and workout gloves, pretending not to notice the shadow of Sarah's figure standing motionless beside her. Damn, they were both her friends, and her loyalties were conflicted.

"I really like him, Sloan," Sarah had whispered softly. "It's the first time I've felt that way in so long."

Fuck. Sloan had straightened with a sigh and looked her old friend in the eye. "I told you once that he never dated anyone who knew about Jasmine. That's not exactly true. He dated a clerk in the Justice Department about the time I was -- leaving. It was serious. They were even talking marriage. He eventually told her about Jasmine, and she totally decompensated. She actually filed a complaint against him in some kind of weird sexual harassment twist, claiming that he had used his position as her superior to unfairly involve her in an unhealthy relationship."

"Jesus," Sarah had uttered in disbelief.

"Yeah. It was absurd, and really carried no merit, but it ruined him. I heard about it through the rumor mill, at least the part of it that wasn't busy talking about me. I looked him up, and we decided it was time for both of us to disappear. We cleared out and six months later started the business."

Sarah had nodded. "I always wondered how the two of you ended up here together. So much has happened while I was away." She didn’t need to add that Sloan had never volunteered the details, and probably never would.

Sloan had looked away, her eyes darkening for an instant. "There isn't much to tell."

Sarah knew that wasn't true, but she had let it go. Sloan would tell her the rest when she was ready, and if she didn't, it didn't matter. She didn't need to hear Sloan's side of things to know that the rumors she had heard as far away as Thailand were false. She didn't press, and Sloan had let the subject drop gratefully.

Sloan shook off the memories and looked over at Michael, who was patiently waiting for her to answer. She shrugged. "I'm not sure if they are or not. They're going out together tonight, and I know Sarah is interested in him. I have a feeling it will all come down to Jason's willingness to trust her."

Michael nodded thoughtfully. "Not always an easy thing to do for anyone, and it must be so much harder for him."

"Yes," Sloan agreed with a sigh, pulling to a stop before the broad entrance to the stately pavilion. She glanced at Michael, aware of the slight air of melancholy that clung to her. She reached for her hand impulsively, drawing Michael around in the small front seat to face her. They were only inches apart, and neither of them paid any attention to the young man in the short red jacket standing impatiently near Sloan's door, waiting to valet park her car.

Sloan looked into Michael's eyes, her voice deep and strong. "If there's something possible between them, Sarah will know what to do to help it grow. She's got a gift that way. Now, I am going to take you inside and let everyone wonder how I have somehow managed to get the most beautiful woman in the room to sit at my table."

Michael blushed, thinking that Sarah wasn't the only one with a gift for knowing just the right thing to say. Then her smile erupted like the sun after a long cold winter, warming Sloan to her core.

"Since I could say the same thing about you, I think we should go show off a bit," Michael said, squeezing Sloan's hand.

Sloan stared at her for a moment before bursting into pleased laughter. "Now there's an offer I can't refuse!"

As they walked up the broad expanse of marble staircase into the vaulted reception area, Michael slipped her arm through Sloan's, a gesture as unconscious and natural as anything she had ever done. If Michael felt Sloan's quick jerk of surprise or the slight trembling in the muscles under her fingers, she didn't show it.



Chapter Eleven

When they arrived, the enormous ballroom was nearly full. Magnificent chandeliers, ablaze with candle-shaped bulbs, hung above the dozens of tables that fronted the stage. Men and women, elegantly turned out, wandered about, greeting friends or taking advantage of the opportunity to network. The evening was primarily a benefit for the myriad city agencies dealing with the multi-dimensional challenge of AIDS treatment, but it was also an important venue for the many factions seeking supporters in the political arena as well. There were a generous number of women in tuxedos as well as designer dresses. The men were mostly in tuxedos, although here and there representatives of the leather community strode about in full regalia, offering a striking counterpoint to the mainstream appearance of the majority. Were it not for the many women walking hand-in-hand, or the men with arms slung casually around their partner's waist, it might have passed for any fundraiser.

Jason and Sarah were already seated at the table Sloan had reserved near the front of the room. Jason, as always, looked GQ handsome in a black tuxedo. Sarah wore a simple dress in flattering tones of blue and green that accentuated her pale skin and emerald eyes. They both greeted Sloan and Michael with enthusiasm.

"God, this is wonderful," Sarah remarked. She looked around the room, continuing, "It's incredible to see so many people here in support."

She looked at both Sloan and Michael, thinking briefly what an amazingly attractive couple they were before reminding herself that they weren't a couple at all. But there was an easy connection between them that seemed apparent to her, although clearly not to them. Sloan watched Michael with obvious pleasure as Michael slipped into the seat beside Jason, and Michael looked over at Sloan with a soft smile that would have been seductive coming from anyone other than Michael. On her it merely seemed sweet, and lovely. Sarah was astonished to see Sloan blush. She thought that might be a first for her very imperturbable friend.

Sarah was aware of Jason fidgeting nearly imperceptibly next to her, and she said to him in a low voice, "Are you nervous about the performance?"

He laughed slightly, but his eyes were tense. "Not Jasmine's," he replied with a hint of sarcasm.

Sarah looked at him a moment, then touched his arm as she understood his meaning. "Jason, you needn't worry about anything with me. I may kiss on the first date, but that's as far as it goes."

Her soft smile did more to set his mind at ease than even her words, though those helped too. He thought she was quite the most attractive woman he had seen in forever, and he couldn't understand what was making him so nervous around her. She was smart and sexy and kind and he liked her laugh and the way she had of looking at him with a whimsical invitation in her eyes. And she knew about Jasmine. Then he realized that he wanted to kiss her, and that fact was more frightening than he could imagine. Could she really accept, or even understand, what a part of him Jasmine was?

He shied his gaze away from her warm welcoming eyes, glancing first at the mass of people milling about between the tables but seeing none of them before his attention finally focused on Sloan. He had always thought her compellingly good-looking, but tonight she looked exceptionally arresting. Her wavy black hair was sleekly brushed back from her temples, falling in casual layers to her collar, and a shock or two hung rakishly over her forehead. Her perfectly fitted tux accentuated her lean, taut body and he was reminded of the first time he had seen her. She had been leaning against the bar in a crowded club on Dupont Circle, cool and cocky and sexy as hell in tight leather pants and a white shirt that clung to her chest and was open tantalizingly low between small high breasts. Jasmine had looked particularly hot that night as well, and it hadn't taken long to catch Sloan's eye. Maybe he should have said no to her invitation to dance, but whatever part of him was Jasmine had wanted to know what it felt like to be held in her arms. Then they were dancing, and their bodies fit together like the intricate curves of two puzzle pieces, thigh between thigh, hip against hip. As they were nearly the same height, it was easy for Jasmine to dip her head and lean her cheek in the bend of Sloan's neck and shoulder. By the end of the dance they were both breathing hard and Sloan let her intentions be known. In a voice low and husky she had asked Jasmine to come home with her.

And the wonderful fantasy had shattered. Jasmine, despite her attraction, could not go home with her. Sloan was practically radiating sexual energy, but Jasmine had demurred, and Jason had never expected to see Sloan again. When they had met by chance while at work, he had initially been terrified by her anger. When she finally understood that he had not maliciously intended to deceive her, she had simply accepted that Jasmine somehow existed in her own right, a conscious but powerfully-defined part of his personality. It was the first time in his life that had ever happened. She had freed some part of him to hope that someone could actually know his secrets and accept him.

Now he sat across from her, admiring her still, knowing that the small spark of desire she still ignited was just one part of his attraction to her. She had saved his career, and his sanity, and perhaps his life that day she came looking for him in the Department of Justice and had offered him a way forward out of the lie. Joining her in business had been the best thing he had ever done.

He jumped slightly when Sloan leaned toward him and said softly, "So, how you holding up?"

"Fine," he responded, coloring quickly. Jesus, did everyone have to know what was going on? He noticed gratefully that Michael didn't seem to be watching him at all. She was clearly fascinated by the diverse and colorful crowd. Come to think of it, when she wasn't watching the throng, her attention was pretty much riveted on Sloan. Ohh god, she is way too naďve for the likes of Sloan!

He couldn't cope with all the conflicting emotions, and turning to Sarah, he said quietly, "Would you walk around with me for a few minutes before I need to go back stage?"

"Sure," she said with a quick smile.

He smiled back, inordinately relieved, and surprisingly pleased. Sarah seemed like the only solid ground in a very rapidly shifting landscape. Impulsively, he took her hand, and they slipped into the stream of people passing by.

Michael watched them go, then turned to Sloan. "Jason seems nervous. I'd think it was sweet if I didn't have a feeling that he was actually frightened. I feel for him."

Sloan studied her. She was coolly beautiful, and yet there was warmth in the depth of her eyes and the timbre of her voice. She was an amazing blend of contrasts. "You are very perceptive."

"Am I?" Michael asked with just the hint of a tease in her voice. "Am I correct then in surmising that you are a little nervous too?"

Sloan was taken aback by Michael's intuitiveness, and her frankness. She wasn't used to anyone being able to read her so well. It both pleased and worried her. To be known, to be understood, was a powerfully seductive emotion. It could make you careless, and it could make you vulnerable. That was a place she never wanted to be again. "Nervous? Perhaps," she allowed with a slight inclination of her head. "But I'm not afraid."

"I wouldn't imagine there is much that could make you nervous, and nothing that would frighten you," Michael remarked quite seriously.

Sloan's eyes darkened. "I am not invincible, or even particularly brave." She stared at Michael, forgetting her earlier vow not to look into her eyes. She forgot her intention to be cautious as well. "You are threatening, but in a most pleasant way," she murmured.

Michael leaned closer, so drawn by Sloan's intent gaze that she lost track of the activity and conversation around her. Everything receded from her view except a violet so deep it was a siren's song beckoning her to the cliffs. "Why?" she whispered.

"Your loveliness captures the imagination and your kindness soothes the soul," Sloan managed through a throat tight with sudden desire. Her head was spinning, her belly was churning, and she felt heat and want pool in her depths. She barely stifled a moan. Drawing a ragged breath, she whispered, "You are very beautiful, in so many ways."

Michael stepped closer to the edge, not even realizing the danger. "If I am, you're the first that's ever said so."

"Then you've been surrounded by fools," Sloan murmured, reaching a hand to trace the line of Michael's jaw. Her fingers trembled. Michael leaned forward to accept the caress, her lips parted slightly, her skin flushed. Her pupils were wide, dark, endless, beckoning Sloan to fall into them. Michael appeared so vulnerable in that instant that Sloan drew back with a nearly audible gasp. God almighty, what am I doing?

At that moment Sarah returned, sliding back into her seat as she announced, "Jasmine is getting dressed for the show. I wanted to stay and watch but she said 'no'."

She might have been invisible. Sarah stared from one to the other, suddenly aware of the unearthly stillness surrounding them. "You two okay?" she asked quietly.

Michael was the first to regain her composure. Her smile was just a bit shaky. "Yes, of course."

Somehow Sarah didn't believe that, but the expression on Sloan's face convinced her not to question the statement. She had never been one to taunt the animals.



Chapter Twelve

Any lingering unease was dispelled as the three of them watched the show. Female impersonators were always popular, and the Cabaret troupe was exceptionally so. It was partly the elaborate costumes that ranged from outrageously flamboyant floor-length gowns with feathers and sequins and plunging necklines for some numbers to stylish evening dresses that would have befit any performer on a Las Vegas stage. In addition to the visual spectacle, the show tunes and popular songs were rendered with skill and consummate style. Some of the impersonators specialized in particular performers, such as Cher or Bette Midler or Celine Dion, much to the delight of the crowd. Jasmine, however, did not. She was not an impersonator in that sense. Her specialty was Billie Holiday-type torch songs, and she performed them straight – no jokes, no exaggerated costumes, nothing but talent, a great voice, and very excellent legs. The audience loved her.

It was difficult for Michael to reconcile that these women were men. There was no awkwardness of motion in the clinging sheaths and high, thin heels, no hint of beard to mar the flawless make-up, and no subtle shifting to suggest that the full bodices were anything but real. Tonight she watched Jasmine with particular interest, searching for bits of Jason. The transformation was remarkable. It wasn't the outward things -- the different hair color or style, the feminine body, the expertly applied lipstick or eyeliner. It was the sultry way Jasmine walked, confident and more than a little seductive, and the throaty voice that whispered an invitation with a simple 'hello', and the look in her eyes that said she knew just how hot she was.

"God, she is sexy," Michael commented to no one in particular.

Sloan looked at her in surprise, and Sarah grinned.

"Yeah, and don't she just know it!" Sarah exclaimed with obvious pride.

"I seem to recall you weren't interested in women," Sloan grumbled good-naturedly.

Sarah arched an eyebrow and laughed. "Jealous are we?"

That comment got Michael's attention. She had just assumed that since Sarah was with Jason that she was straight. But she was with Sloan and that didn't mean she wasn't, did it? One thing she was quite sure of, however, was that she did not like the idea that Sloan might be attracted to Sarah. She couldn't say exactly why.

"No point in being jealous," Sloan continued. "Any way you look at it, I can't compete with Jasmine. I could never wear one of those dresses, I can't sing, and I'd kill myself in those shoes."

"Plus, there is the issue of Jason to consider," Sarah said, suddenly serious. "I love Jasmine's sense of humor and spirit and wild streak, but what intrigues me is knowing that Jason is there somewhere, too. I really wanted to watch him dress tonight, to see him become her."

"I don't imagine he's ever done that," Sloan remarked. "He's very private about it."

"It must be frightening for him to be so exposed," Michael agreed.

Sarah was silent for a moment, considering what they had said. "I hadn't thought that he would be threatened by me seeing," she said with a shake of her head. "Not very sensitive of me, I guess. I'm clearly not as tuned in to the subtleties of all of this as I thought."

"I'm certain that he just wants to be sure of your reaction first," Michael said gently, sensing Sarah's self-criticism. "If he cares about you, it must be terrifying not knowing if you can accept this part of him."

Sloan stared at Michael, wondering how she could grasp the heart of the issue so quickly. She watched as Michael leaned forward and took Sarah's hand, whispering gently, "Don't be discouraged. I'm sure he needs you to keep asking. Once he finally trusts you, he'll let you closer."

There was a tender warmth in Michael's gaze that softened her features and gave her an almost ethereal appearance. As quickly as she had been moved to desire a few moments earlier, Sloan was now touched by an emotion a great deal more dangerous. These glimpses of deep kindness and compassion captured Sloan's imagination and stirred her longing. Michael was beautiful in more than just body, however, and the depth of her gracious spirit warmed some long frozen place in Sloan's soul.

She looked away abruptly, wishing to break the spell. She could never remember being this affected by any other woman, and she was absolutely certain this would only lead to disaster. Michael Lassiter was a woman whose life was in turmoil, and she was not someone Sloan could simply take to bed and forget about the next day. Sloan reminded herself that since Michael showed no inclination toward that anyway, it was a moot point. Sloan grimaced in frustration and looked up with relief to see Jasmine approaching. She needed something to distract her from Michael's disconcerting nearness, and Jasmine filled the order nicely.

"Ah, the party is about to begin!" Jasmine declared as she rushed up breathlessly. She waved a hand in the direction of the stage, where a band was warming up and workers were clearing an area for dancing. She was still wearing the form-fitting red dress she had performed in, and she looked as elegant as any lady at the ball.

"Wonderful dress," Sarah said by way of greeting.

Jasmine slipped into the seat between Sloan and Sarah, and turned to Sarah with a smile that was just a tiny bit shy. "Thank you," she responded without a trace of her usual flirtatiousness. "I saw it in the window of a little boutique on my lunch hour one day, and I just knew it was meant for me."

Sarah wondered briefly who had purchased it, Jason or Jasmine, but decided that that was a question best asked when Jasmine felt a little more comfortable with her. "Well, you were right."

Jasmine smiled again, her cheeks flushing slightly, and turned to say her hellos to Michael and Sloan. The four of them chatted and commented on the who's who amongst the attendees for a few moments until the band began to play.

Then, Jasmine stood abruptly, grasping Sloan's hand. "Come on, baby, come dance with me."

For a moment, Sloan looked uncharacteristically disconcerted, then she shrugged helplessly and allowed Jasmine to pull her into the crowd on the dance floor. Michael and Sarah looked after them for second, then at each other and smiled.

"Poor Sloan," Sarah laughed. "Jasmine just loves to tease her. She's the only one I've ever known who could catch Sloan off-guard. If I didn't know better, I'd actually say Sloan was flustered!"

"I think that's because Sloan finds Jasmine attractive. I can certainly see why," Michael said with sudden insight, turning the idea over in her mind. She thought back to the story Sloan had told her about that first meeting with Jasmine, and realized that the two of them had a long and much more intimate relationship than she had ever realized. Sloan had admitted her attraction to Jasmine initially, but Michael assumed that once Sloan learned about Jason that the interest would be gone. Now, seeing Jasmine, she realized that wasn't necessarily true. Jasmine was seductive and charming and female to all appearances, so why wouldn't Sloan be affected by her attentions.

It was Sarah's turn to be surprised. "You're right. I'm amazed I didn't see it myself." She looked at Michael with new respect.

Michael smiled. "This is all so new to me, I have no preconceived notions of how it all works. Sloan is a lesbian, Jasmine is a sexy woman. Ergo –" She laughed, lifting her hands into the air in mock surrender.

"Does that bother you? Sloan's response to her, I mean?" Sarah asked, curious about exactly what was happening between Michael and Sloan.

Michael laughed a little self-consciously, wondering if Sarah was reading her mind. When she had watched Jasmine take Sloan's hand and so effortlessly lead her away, for one instant she had been jealous. Jasmine was very attractive, and the two of them looked good together. Even reminding herself that Jasmine wasn't, well, exactly all she seemed hadn't erased the slight twinge of envy when she had seen Jasmine step into Sloan's arms. She shook her head, very aware that Sarah was waiting for her response, and also aware that her thoughts were wandering down paths too fantastic to contemplate. "It's none of my business whom Sloan finds attractive," she said as lightly as she could. "Although I couldn't help but wonder if it bothers you that Jasmine and Sloan are, well, interested or -- whatever."

Sarah looked contemplative. "Actually, I think Jason has a little crush on Sloan, but has always known nothing could come of it. Him being a he and all. Jasmine on the other hand is free to flirt with Sloan outrageously, which she does at every opportunity." She grinned at the absurdity of the entire conversation, but continued on gamely. "That makes me a bit jealous, I guess. Since I, unlike Sloan, wouldn't mind taking Jason to bed at all."

"What about Jasmine? Would you take her to bed, too?" Michael asked before she realized she might be overstepping the limits of her brief acquaintance with the other woman. "I'm sorry – that was awfully personal."

"No," Sarah said, with a shake of her head. "Don't worry. And don't think I haven't considered that very question. Women in general don't usually turn me on – well, Sloan a bit, maybe –"

"God – is there anyone she doesn't turn on?" Michael blurted, then immediately regretted it as she blushed furiously.

Sarah pretended not to notice her embarrassment, and continued, "But Sloan and I resolved that issue years ago. Then along comes Jason, whom I liked the minute I met, as well as thinking he had the nicest butt I'd seen on a guy in years." She grinned at the memory. She had stood in the office waiting room of Sloan Security nearly open-mouthed in amazement while Jason had lectured Sloan about being on time for the afternoon appointments, and threatening her with bodily harm if she dared put off her final report to Somebody, Somebody and Somebody that was due the next morning. She expected Sloan to annihilate him at the very least, but Sloan had merely growled something that sounded a lot like 'okay' and stomped out. Jason had winked at Sarah, his impossibly blue eyes sparkling with delight, and she had gotten warm and wet in places that didn't usually feel that way at one o'clock in the afternoon.

"Sarah?" Michael asked, confused by the slightly vacant look on Sarah's face and the long silence.

Sarah jumped, then smiled self-consciously. "Oh, sorry. Anyhow -- then I meet Jasmine at the club and thought she was funny and outrageous, and I liked her a lot, too. When I found out the connection, it was just so amazing. The more I saw of them, the more I thought of them as two people, but not totally separate. So when I think about Jasmine –" She hesitated, then put into words what she had been avoiding, even in her own mind. "When I think about undressing her, and finding Jason there somewhere, it makes me pretty hot."

Michael shook her head. "It certainly makes the usual arrangements seem pretty boring!"

Sarah looked at her for a second, then grinned as she realized that Michael understood exactly what she had been saying. "God, it’s nice to find someone who gets it! I've haven't known how to talk about it to anyone without having it sound too bizarre."

"One thing I've discovered in the last few weeks is that nothing that I thought I knew about life, or myself, is necessarily true," Michael said with a touch of regret. "Least of all what being with someone is all about. Or even the why and the how of it all."

"I think what they say about falling in love when you least expect it, and with the most unexpected person, just might be true," Sarah responded quietly. She had heard the edge of pain in Michael's voice.

"I think you're right about that," Michael said as she watched Sloan and Jasmine dancing. Funny, that they should look so good together when it was all illusion. She wondered at her own bewilderment and confusion. Was that what it had been with her and Jeremy? All just illusion?

  Part 5

original fiction <> homepage