(Turning Tides, cont’d.)


"I started out on the wrong foot,

Now I’m not myself;

I am Jekyll, I am Hyde,

Found this place to hide... come seek me;

Oh, so up and down,

So back and forth... so insecure;

Can’t get this taste out of my mouth,

Swallow it down... pretend;

Then hold it, hold it all in,

Let it build up, oh build a bomb;

Then blow it, blow it away,

Clear it all out, just end it." - No Doubt




The first week after the Christmas party was very difficult for Allison. She hated how she scurried from the elevator into her office, looking down at the floor and dodging eye contact with everyone, and she avoided M.J. and the entire 14th floor like the plague. She hated how her shoulders slumped and her head hung in shame, as though the entire building knew what had happened and how she’d been duped. She felt as if she were walking with a placard slung ‘round her neck that read ‘SUCKER’. Luckily, it seemed that M.J. was busy enough that she didn’t need to call upon Alli for any reason, so the Assistant Director was content to stay in her office and keep herself occupied with HR issues.

Alli knew that she was being excessively anti-social with everyone, but she couldn’t bring herself to give a shit. Her mind was a constant maelstrom of confusion, doubt, and anger, and she felt it best to just dwell within the confines of her office until she calmed down. She feared, however, that that might take awhile.


It had been nearly two weeks since the big Christmas bash, and M.J. was working frantically to meet numerous end-of-year deadlines. She had several Human Resources issues that she knew would require input from John or, preferably, Alli, but for some reason, every time she tried to get ahold of the Assistant HR Director, she either didn’t answer her phone or didn’t return the call. M.J. wasn’t entirely sure why she felt an uneasiness every time she thought about Alli, but she had a niggling feeling in the back of her mind that told her something was amiss.

Not one to sit back and ponder things patiently, M.J. decided to take a little ride down to the 13th floor and see for herself where the Assistant Director was hiding.


The appearance of the tall, austere President in their office made the HR staff snap to attention. Although it wasn’t unheard of for her to barge in through the doors unannounced, it always seemed to create a sense of doom and foreboding, and everyone walked on eggshells.

M.J. strode purposefully toward Alli’s office, not pausing to acknowledge anyone else. When she reached the office, she saw that the lights were on, the computer was on, and papers were strewn around the desk, but there was no sign of the blonde occupant. Frowning and twisting her lips, M.J. turned and headed in the opposite direction.

Sensing someone’s presence, John looked up from his computer screen to see his boss staring at him, a tight look of impatience etched in her stony face.

"M.J.? What can I do for you?" He asked with just a hint of dread.

"I’m looking for Allison," M.J. said matter-of-factly.

John craned his neck sideways to look over into Alli’s office, seeing that she wasn’t there. "I don’t know where she went... I’m not her secretary," he answered rather snidely. He wondered why M.J. was asking him where Alli was when she was the one who spent most of her time with the woman.

Why can’t she just leave a note, like everyone else? He thought crossly.

M.J. made a small annoyed face, "Tell her that I need to see her when she has a moment," M.J. snapped, then turned on her heel and breezed briskly out of the office.

John sighed and shook his head, "Uh yeah, you’re *welcome*, M.J.," he mumbled aloud.


Alli meandered slowly down the hallway as she made her way from the elevator back to her department. She sipped her cup of vanilla cappuccino languidly, reveling in the rich taste of the hot, sweet liquid. Taking leisurely little sojourns down to the cafeteria in search of comfort-food was becoming a bad habit for her this week, but it was a distraction she desperately needed. She was tired of sitting in her office all day, she was tired of feeling sorry for herself, she was tired of avoiding M.J.’s phone calls, and, she admitted, she was getting slightly bored.

As she entered the HR area and walked toward her office, John called out to her, "Alli... M.J. was here looking for you," he said as she approached his doorway. Unable to remain expressionless, she slid her eyes away and rolled them ever-so-slightly. John quirked his lips in an understanding smile, "She wants you to go see her when you have a minute," he added, fully enjoying the displeased look on his Assistant’s face.

Alli sighed mildly, "Okay... thanks," she mumbled, then turned and walked back to her office, feeling a rush of anxiety wash over her. It seemed that her placid boredom was about to end.

Privately, John was glad to see that Alli wasn’t as enamored of his boss as she once appeared to be. He had been getting concerned that his Assistant was spending more time with the company President than she did with him and her duties in HR, and - if Ray Calhoun was to be believed - there was more going on than just ‘work’.

Yes, my little chats with Ray are always quite revealing, John mused inwardly. But I knew it wouldn’t take long before M.J. blew it, he thought selfishly. Now Alli knows what everyone else knows.


M.J. was working diligently, trying to finish up her paperwork so that she could get out of the office and go home early, for a change. She glanced at her clock, noticing that it was well after four, and she had yet to hear from Allison. It was obvious now that Alli was indeed avoiding her, and she made a mental note to get to the bottom of it first thing tomorrow morning. Redoubling her efforts, she was feeling good about the headway she was making when a voice suddenly interrupted her train of thought.

"Working so hard, even at the end of the day?" Raiford said snidely as he waltzed into M.J.’s office unannounced.

M.J. looked up, fixing her obnoxious stepbrother with a glare, "Some of us take our work a bit more seriously than others," she snapped back.

"Oh yes... you’re so noble and dedicated, M.J." Ray added with a mocking laugh.

M.J. dropped her eyes and returned to her work, "What do you want Ray?" She asked impatiently, refusing to look up at the pain-in-the-ass who had come to stand in front of her desk.

"Oh nothing... I just thought you might wanna know that there’s some nasty gossip circulating around the company," he hinted coyly.

M.J. rested her hands on her desk and looked sternly up at him again, "I don’t give a flying fuck about *gossip*, Ray." She spat tersely.

Ray smiled crookedly back at her, "Oh but you should give a fuck — the gossip involves you, sister dear."

M.J. felt an angry blush color her cheeks, and she pinned her step-sibling with a harsh, hateful stare. He was baiting her, of course, and she refused to give in.

Grinning wickedly, Ray picked up one of M.J.’s business cards, fingering it idly as he began pacing slowly in front of M.J.’s desk.

"It seems that everyone’s talking about our normally reclusive company President and the *unusual* performance she gave at the Christmas party." He gloated at the silent, seething expression on M.J.’s face. "Personally, I think the sleazy red dress would have generated enough talk, but I think it was your drunken flirting with all the men - and women - that *really* got everyone’s attention." Ray was positively giddy with the power he was wielding against his stepsister.

M.J. pushed her chair back and stood up, placing her hands on her desk and leaning menacingly toward her stepbrother.

"I don’t have time for your stupid games, Ray. If you have nothing important to say to me, then get the fuck out of my office." She spat, her voice venomous, her eyes glacial.

Raiford smiled back at her and shrugged, "Have it your way, M.J." He said calmly, flipping the little card at her face as he turned and walked out her door, satisfied that he had ruffled the unflappable woman’s feathers a little.

M.J. flopped back down in her chair, expelling the exasperated sigh that she’d been withholding the whole time Ray was in her office.

"Fucking asshole," M.J. cursed quietly to herself as she picked up the scorned business card and crumpled it in her hand.

Ray always had a way of getting under her skin, and he knew it. Of course he was just blowing smoke up her ass, but still, the fact that she let him get to her, even remotely, made her extremely angry — mostly with herself. She knew his underhanded techniques; she knew better than to give credence to anything he said. It had been so nice not having him around while he was on his excessive vacation; she hadn’t had to put up with his bullshit for so long, maybe she was just out of practice. Since he’d returned from his hiatus, he seemed to be making more of a nuisance of himself than usual. It made M.J. wonder what he had been up to while he was gone, and she had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Resolving not to let Ray ruin her agenda, M.J. returned to the task at hand, determined more than ever to finish early and go the hell home.


Alli put off making her visit to the 14th floor until the absolute end of the day. It was nearly five o’clock when she finally approached the desk of M.J.’s secretary. Her palms grew sweaty while she listened and watched Helen buzz M.J. and tell her that Alli had arrived, and when she heard M.J.’s smooth voice on the intercom saying, ‘send her right in,’ her stomach constricted into a painful knot. ...This was going to be even harder than she feared.

Alli took a deep breath before she reached for the huge wooden door; when she pushed it open and stepped through the threshold, she expelled it quietly, facing her dread at last.

M.J. was seated at her desk, calmly typing away at her computer. Her hair was bound up tightly, as always, and she had her customary impeccable business suit attire on.

Hearing Alli’s entrance, she glanced up, "Well, *finally*," M.J. said in a somewhat annoyed tone. "I was beginning to think you were intentionally avoiding me for some reason," she added, quirking a brow and looking pointedly into Alli’s darkened jade depths.

Of course she would be totally blunt about it... and she’s obviously in a pissy mood... great, Alli thought as she felt herself blush, "I’ve been busy... it is year-end, you know," she managed to assert, jutting her chin out defiantly.

"Yes, I know. That’s why I needed to see you," M.J. retorted perfunctorily. She paused, observing the tense disposition and decidedly unfriendly glare coming from the normally warm, placid woman in front of her. Raiford’s words echoed in her head as she dropped her eyes to her desk and began rummaging through a stack of papers. Perhaps some of what he’d said held a smidgeon of truth? Could Alli be upset about her behavior at the Christmas Party? Had she perhaps heard the company gossip?

That’s ridiculous, M.J. thought crossly, if she believes any of the shit floating around the rumor-mill, then that’s her problem. Her initial notion of calmly finding out what was bothering her cute friend went flying right out the window. Alli was obviously angry and uptight, and her body language bordered on outright hostility. This only served to spark the fight-cat tendencies within M.J.

If she wants to have a row with me about something, she’ll have to initiate it... I refuse to give a damn, M.J. thought to herself before continuing aloud.

"I have several items that require your input before the holiday break," M.J. said sharply. She then proceeded to dish-out one assignment after another, not pausing to take a break, and not looking up at Alli once.

By the end of the brief meeting, the tips of Alli’s ears burned red with anger and humiliation. M.J. was treating her like some sort of stupid lackey, and she wanted to strangle her. When the President finally ended things with a dismissive, ‘that’ll be all for now,’ Alli fairly bolted out of her chair and marched out the door, leaving M.J. staring blankly in her wake, feeling more disappointed than angry.

A million thoughts swirled inside M.J.’s head as she watched Alli streak out her door.

"Why am I always standing downhill when the shit decides to flow?" She mumbled quietly to herself, shaking her head.


It was just after five-thirty when Madison approached the open door of her sister’s darkened office. She stopped short for a moment, seeing M.J. standing, staring out one of her big picture windows.

"Ooo... staring out the window... that’s never a good sign," Madison said aloud as she walked toward her sister’s stiff figure.

M.J. turned and gave her a warning look, "It’s been a rough day," she snapped.

"Would that ‘rough day’ have anything to do with the huffy little blonde who just blew past me in the hallway without even saying ‘hello’?" she queried knowingly.

M.J. shot her another look and plopped down into her chair with a sigh, "She’s pissed off at me," the President admitted quietly.

"Why?" Madison asked as she came to perch on the edge of the desk.

"I don’t know." M.J. said flatly.

"You don’t *KNOW*?" Madison asked condescendingly, "I find it hard to believe that you have *no* idea what caused it."

"I don’t! She was fine... up until a few weeks ago... until the Christmas Party... now she won’t even talk to me." M.J. grumbled, pretending to sort through paper piles on her desk.

"Well, that should explain it, right there," Madison said matter-of-factly.

M.J. looked at her in confused anger, "What? What should explain *what*?!"

"Morgan... do you remember the party at all?" Madison asked incredulously.

"Of course I remember!" M.J. snapped.

"Well, do you remember how you *behaved*?!" Madison chided. M.J. just glared at her. "You were flirting and schmoozing shamelessly with *everyone*! I’m sure Alli saw you!" Madison said with a half-laugh.

"Hey! *You’re* the one who told me that I had to schmooze!" M.J. yelled back, pointing a finger at her sister, "I didn’t even wanna GO to the fucking party!"

"Yes, *schmooze*, Morgan, not get totally smashed and be completely over-the-top with everyone - *including* Alli!" Madison yelled back. "And I *certainly* didn’t tell you to hang all over Kate Reed and make a spectacle of yourself!" The younger Whitton added for good measure.

"What?! I was *not* smashed, and I did *NOT* ‘hang all over’ Kate or anyone else!" M.J. growled through clenched teeth. "Have you been talking to fucking Ray?!" She said accusingly.

"Ray? What the hell does Ray have to do with this?" Madison asked, not understanding.

"Ray paid me a little visit earlier to gloat and inform me that everyone was *gossiping* about me and my ‘performance’ at the Christmas party," M.J. grumbled begrudgingly.

"Well, much as I hate to admit it, he could be right. That dress you wore caused enough of a commotion, let alone your *behavior*." Madison quipped in a disapproving tone.

M.J.’s mouth opened, then closed abruptly, and she clenched her jaw tight, grinding her teeth together. She wanted to punch her younger sister right in the face, right there in the middle of her office, in broad daylight. She also wanted to scream out and deny everything, but the truth was, she didn’t have an extremely clear recollection of the exact events of that night. She knew that she had carried-on with Kate a little bit, and she vaguely remembered Kate making some very lewd suggestions and overtures, but the only heavy-duty flirting she had done — and enjoyed — was with Allison... at least that’s what she recalled.

Madison could see the gears turning in her sister’s mind, and she leaned forward to lock her steely eyes with M.J.’s.

"Did you ever stop to think that Alli probably saw you carrying-on with Kate, and everyone else, and that she must wonder what in the hell kind of *game* you’re playing with her? I mean, Jesus, Morgan, she must wonder which side of the proverbial fence you sit on because--,"

"Shut up, Maddy... just *SHUT-UP*!" M.J. interrupted with a shout, standing up abruptly, fists clenched tightly at her sides. She’d had just about enough of everyone climbing all over her today.

"No, Morgan! I won’t stand here and watch you do this again!" Madison yelled back, slipping off the desk and standing firmly in front of her very angry, and in her opinion, stupid, sister. She’d be damned if she was going to sit idly by while M.J. destroyed herself - and someone else - again, just because she couldn’t control her arrogance and curb her basal desires. M.J. said nothing, she just stuck her jaw out and glared menacingly.

"If Allison is pissed-off at you, then I say, make the break now... let her go," Madison added boldly. M.J.’s face dropped for a second and she just stared at her sister.

"Break off whatever it is you two have going before you make another mistake!" Madison said. "You can’t un-cross lines and un-step boundaries, Morgan — once it’s done, it’s *done*!" She added emphatically, waving a hand. "You canNOT fuck up like this again." She said, taking a step toward her older sister and regarding her with serious, steely eyes.

An ebony eyebrow shot skyward and a smarmy grin quirked one corner of M.J.’s lips, "Interesting choice of words... or was that an intended pun?" She quipped sardonically as she sat back down in her chair again.

"Goddammit Morgan...," Madison hissed. "If you fuck up, do NOT expect me to be there to help you pick up the pieces this time! I *MEAN* IT!" Madison exclaimed loudly, pointing her finger in her sister’s face. She turned on her heel briskly and stormed out of M.J.’s office, slamming the door so hard that the walls vibrated.

M.J. stared blankly at the door for about five minutes, then she let her head fall back as she exhaled a deep, wrenching sigh.

When did this all become so goddamn complicated? The tall woman asked herself. She hadn’t intended for things to go awry, not really. She and Alli had been having fun, that was all... where was the harm in that? Her teasing and flirtatious manner was just a part of who she was... everyone knew it... it was never a real problem before. People flirted all the time, and no one got hurt... why was this time any different?

Because it’s obviously more than that to Alli, her subconscious annoyingly piped-in, and because you feel something for her... you know it... *she* knows it, it persisted.

"Shut up!" M.J. mumbled aloud to herself.

I don’t *feel*... I can’t *feel*, she thought as she closed her eyes. The only thing she could ‘feel’ right now was that she was losing her mind.

She propped her elbows on the armrests of her chair and let her head fall forward, pressing her fingers against her eyebrows in an attempt to massage away the massive headache that was forming there.

Why do women have to be so damn complex? M.J. asked rhetorically as she idly pondered the differences between the sexes. She’d been told numerous times that her mind worked more like a man’s than a woman’s, and she honestly didn’t think that was such a bad thing. She didn’t care much for relationships at all, but if one was necessary, then it should be minimal, and simple — cut and dry — avoiding all the emotional entanglements that most women seemed to thrive on.

Getting emotional was always a bad idea. When you get emotional, you get in too deep, and when you get in too deep, it makes it much harder to turn your back. And M.J. liked to turn her back. It was her modus operandi. She played with people, and when she grew weary of someone, she just dropped them, no questions asked. Most women would never do such a thing... most women let the person linger and haunt them. M.J. didn’t do that... she refused. So if those things made her more like a guy than a chick, then so be it.

The thing was, she admitted disconcertingly, it seemed that Alli *was* haunting her. She didn’t know when it started, or how long it’d been going on, but the attractive, intelligent little blonde had somehow seeped into her pores, silently invading the deepest, darkest recesses of her soul. M.J.’s mind didn’t help things either; it tortured her often by stubbornly recalling the faint smell of dainty perfume... the ghostly whisper of a delicate touch... the soft expressiveness of the gentle features... the smirks that flitted across succulent lips... the honesty and openness that shone so brightly in the deep-set, uniquely-colored eyes.

M.J. absolutely hated to admit it, but as crazy as they made her, she was fond of all those things and missed the person they were attached to a great deal.  Denying her feelings and thoughts was getting more and more difficult. On the surface, she could pretend that nothing had changed, but deep within, her internal monologue seemed to be complaining louder and louder with each passing day.




"Well I do my best to understand dear,

But I’m still mystified, and I wanna know why,

I pick myself up off the ground,

To have you knock me back down, again and again;

And when I ask you to explain, you say,
‘You gotta be cruel to be kind, in the right measure,
Cruel to be kind, it’s a very good sign;
Cruel to be kind, means that I love you, baby,
You gotta be cruel, you gotta be cruel to be kind.’ " — N. Lowe




The little tete-a-tete’s with Raiford and her sister left M.J. feeling frustrated and restless for days, and Alli continued to dodge her, or, if they did meet up, she was curt and gave M.J. tons of attitude. As much as she missed their easy repartee and friendly — albeit risque’ — flirtations, any warm, fuzzy feelings she thought she had for the blonde Assistant were quickly vanishing in the face of such obvious hostility and rancor.

M.J. continually wondered, if Alli was upset with her for her behavior at the Christmas party, which part upset her? The part where she flirted with *her*, or the part where she flirted with *others*? The brunette remembered feeling pretty secure in teasing and touching Alli the way she did, because all the things they had done and said leading up to that moment seemed to indicate that Alli would be okay with such contact. She tried very hard to remember what Alli’s reaction had been, but all she could recall was Kate being there between them all evening, like a thorn.

M.J. wasn’t one to apologize, especially for people and things she had no control over. So if Alli was upset by Kate and her antics, what could M.J. say about that? She certainly had no control over Kate.

God, did anyone? She wondered to herself. Surely Alli could see that Kate was just antagonizing M.J. intentionally... surely she could tell that the redhead meant nothing... couldn’t she? If she couldn’t, then what could M.J. do to convince her otherwise? And more importantly, should she even bother trying?

This is why dating women *sucks*, M.J. groused to herself more than once.

Part of her wanted to be brutal and just let the little blonde stew away in her downstairs office for as long as she wanted. But another part of her realized, reluctantly, that she sorely yearned for Alli’s presence too. Other than Alli, M.J. couldn’t think of anyone whom she actually liked and whose company she truly enjoyed. The question was... was their friendship now damaged beyond repair?

After much consternation, M.J. decided that she would simply treat Alli as she always treated her. She supposed she should be angry for the haughty attitude the blonde had been giving her lately, but she knew that it was probably just Alli’s way of handling her feelings. She also knew that if she was cold and rude right back to her, Alli would only retreat further and they’d never have a good working relationship with one another again. And, if she tip-toed around her, Alli would think she was guilty of something, and M.J. vowed and declared that she did *not* feel guilty about anything. She didn’t owe Alli any explanations... she was free to flirt and carry-on with whomever she wanted.

There was never any inferred exclusivity... if she misinterpreted our relationship and expected anything from me, that was her problem, not mine, M.J. insisted to herself, day after day... after day.


The Christmas holiday passed in a quick, quiet blur, and the New Year was suddenly upon everyone. Alli had decided to spend Christmas Eve with her father, and Christmas Day with Kaitlyn and Josh.

M.J., on the other hand, spent her Christmas Eve alone in front of her television, and visited with Madison on Christmas Day only.

It rained heavily both days.


It was a dreary morning in early January when all the Department Directors met in the 14th floor conference room to go over budget planning and preparations for the new year. As usual, John drug Alli along because, she knew, he sucked at figures, and he had gotten her to draft up all the budget and expense report documentation. The man’s knack for continually weaseling his way out of directorial assignments was truly amazing.

Alli was relieved to find that M.J. was not present at the meeting. It was just Madison and Raiford, and lots and lots of assorted pastries and coffees. Alli decided she could handle morning meetings like this.

Liz Jacobs had just finished her Finance presentation when John started in, albeit weakly, presenting the personnel and hiring forecasts to everyone. He reached a point in his speech where people started asking questions, and when Madison began inquiring about one new position in particular, John - like the spineless jellyfish he was - looked to Alli to back him up and fill in the blanks. Knowing the man like she did, Alli chimed-in flawlessly as soon as he looked at her.

"We do have one Commercial Engineer already, that is true, but since the Commercial Building Division seems to be growing and surpassing the Residential Building Division, those involved think that another Engineer position is very much warranted, and a search should begin as soon as possible." Sometimes she loved sounding so professional and polished.

The polish received a tarnishing blemish in no time flat, however, and it came in the form of an unseen, rich, contralto voice from the back of the room somewhere.

"A decision has already been made regarding the additional Commercial Engineer position."

All heads turned in the direction of the disembodied, but distinct voice. M.J. stood at the back of the room, a coffee cup in her hand. "The hiring for that position is being suspended indefinitely." She finished flatly, sipping casually from her styrofoam cup.

Alli had to catch herself before she let her jaw drop on the conference table. She sneaks in here and doesn’t say one word until *I* say something, Alli thought crossly. Son-of-a-bitch!

Her anger flared, and she was unable to keep her mouth shut, "I don’t believe those involved in the hiring are *aware* of that," she snapped, eying the woman who was now a stranger to her with a disdainful, wide-eyed glare.

"Well they soon will be," M.J. shot back succinctly, her cerulean eyes not leaving the angry jade ones that pinned her. An awkward silence ensued for what seemed like an eternity until Madison made a comment and moved the meeting forward again.

After a few more minutes, Madison suggested everyone take a break, which was met with eager rumblings as everyone raced off to either the bathroom or the snack table. Alli watched warily as M.J. stayed in the back of the room, casually talking to people, a look of permanent arrogance parked on her elegant features. Alli could feel her blood boil as she continued to watch while M.J. grinned cheekily and flirted with men who smiled their smarmy little smiles while kissing her Presidential ass. It made the blonde ill to witness such forced coyness and bullshit bravado.

Alli forced her eyes away from the scenery and stood up to make her way over to the snack table ...another pastry should help to quell the uneasy feeling in her stomach. As she was helping herself to a cheese danish, she suddenly felt the pressure of another body as someone brushed a little too intimately against her backside. She flinched, dropping her danish onto the table. She didn’t even have to turn and look; she knew of only one person who would have the audacity to do such a thing.

"Oops," M.J. said, glancing at the dropped treat. "Here... let me get that for you, hon," she whispered with sugary sweetness as she reached an arm around Alli’s waist to pick up the item and re-deposit it on the plate. M.J.’s arm conveniently brushed along Alli’s body, causing all kinds of alarms to go off inside the Assistant Director’s head.

Jesus *Christ* I can’t believe her! Alli thought as she closed her eyes briefly, willing away the feelings of arousal that surged through her at M.J.’s touch. Her mind was screaming with indignance and protest at the brunette’s brashness, but her body was faltering and betraying her as it thoroughly enjoyed the contact and yearned pathetically for more.

Forcing her mind to remain steadfast in her conviction to be angry with the tall woman, Alli snapped her eyes open and turned abruptly to face M.J., who was standing with a self-satisfied smirk planted firmly on her ruby lips, and a dark gleam in her eyes that taunted dangerously.

Intent on making it known that she would not be intimated and made to play the fool any longer, Alli took a bold step toward M.J., fixing her with a raised brow and a dark glare of her own.

"Thanks, *hon*," she said in a low, sultry tone. She then took a bite of her danish and licked her lips saucily, regarding M.J. with a look that was meant to throw down the gauntlet before turning away and walking back to her seat, her head held high.

There! Take *that* Miss High-and-Mighty! Alli thought with a smile. ...Two can play this game, M.J. Whitton.


And so, yet another cat-and-mouse game began between the two women. This was one that Alli was very unfamiliar with, but she found herself jumping right in with determination, hoping to learn well enough as it went along. Judging from the numerous smirks and sly looks that M.J. threw her way, she assumed she was adapting quite well. Of course Alli knew that she was playing with some very dangerous fire. She had first-hand experience of just what M.J. was capable of, but instead of tucking her tail between her legs and running for cover, she found herself refusing to be defeated and sit on the sidelines.

The two women would meet or cross paths here and there, sniping at each other one time, then flirting another. It was odd, and usually frustrating, but it was also enjoyable, in a strange, demented sort of way. It certainly wasn’t the way Alli expected things to pan out. Her relationship with M.J. just kept getting more and more bizarre, and she didn’t know how to put the brakes on it.


Late one morning, right after a Director’s meeting that was rife with the usual sharp remarks and exchanges, Liz stopped by Alli’s office and asked her to go to lunch. Alli agreed, not thinking anything of it. Soon into the meal, however, she got the feeling that Liz had an ulterior motive...

"So... what’s the deal with you and M.J.?" Liz asked nonchalantly.

Alli frowned, watching her friend’s expression carefully, "No ‘deal’... why?"

"I saw you two... ‘talking’ in the hallway after the meeting this morning," Liz said, trying to sound casual. "What was that little altercation about?"

Alli quickly recalled her little run-in with the President. They had discussed a worker who was being terminated, and they’d had a brief, but intense exchange about the unreasonable way M.J. wanted it handled. M.J. had intentionally stood very close to Alli, towering over her and trying to intimidate her, but Alli had refused to back off.

"Nothing. Just M.J. trying to employ her usual disarm-and-disable tactics," Alli said with a slight grin.

"Looked like you two were flirting with each other to me," Liz said in a warning tone.

"No, I was just defending myself and giving her a dose of her own medicine," All insisted.

"Same thing, isn’t it?" Liz quipped.

"I dunno... is it?" Alli asked with feigned innocence.

"Oh come OFF it, Alli! I thought you learned your lesson with her?! You’re playing with fire... and you’re gonna get burned!" Liz exclaimed angrily, her normally warm eyes flaring uncharacteristically.

Alli looked at her in shock for a moment. She’d never seen Liz angry before, and the woman’s outburst about something that didn’t even concern her seemed a little odd.

"Liz, for chrissake! I’m not a kid — I can take care of this myself!" Alli asserted.

Liz continued to regard her seriously, "No, you aren’t a kid, but you did admit to being naïve, didn’t you?" she shot back.

"Naïve — maybe; completely unequipped to deal with the situation — no," Alli insisted, her brows furrowed as she regarded Liz with indignance.

Liz sighed and looked away for a moment, "I’m sorry, I just... I *know* how she is, Alli... I know what she’s capable of, and--,"

Alli interrupted, "How do you know what she’s like Liz?" she asked with a frown, "I mean, *really*?"

"I’ve worked here for four years, Alli — I KNOW her," Liz said with wide eyes.

"But have you worked with her as *much* as I have? Have you gotten as close to her as I have?" Alli said, trying not to sound condescending or arrogant.

Liz gave her an incredulous look, "What are you trying to say? That you know her sooo much better than everyone else? That she doesn’t deserve the reputation she has?" Liz said sarcastically.

"Well... yeah... maybe that is what I’m saying," Alli replied somewhat sheepishly.

"Oh Jesus... oh Alli... please — tell me you’re not caving! Tell me you’re not falling for her fucking Academy-Award-winning ACT! *PLEASE*!?" Liz said loudly, motioning with her hands.

Alli dropped her fork and brought both her hands up to rub her eyes as tears began to threaten and burn behind them. How could she possibly make someone like Liz understand what she felt for M.J.? M.J. was so frustratingly complex; one minute she was funny and flirtatious, the next she was gnashing teeth and claws. She was so complex, such a challenge... so very alluring, and so incredibly maddening. ...And Alli just couldn’t seem to stay away from her, no matter how hard she tried. She was inexplicably drawn in to her like the proverbial moth to the flame.

Both Alli and Liz sat in silence for a few moments, each uncertain what to say to the other. Finally Alli spoke quietly, "I just... I can’t make myself stay away from her, Liz... I don’t know why... I don’t know what it is that pulls me to her... but it’s... it’s something... something *powerful*."

"Yeah, it’s called a Black Hole, and it’s going to suck you in and spit you out into the deepest, darkest recesses of outer space, never to be heard from again!" Liz said with much dramatic flair as she gave her friend a wide-eyed look.

Alli sniffed and looked up at Liz, "Y’know, I’m sure that you mean well, but you’re really not helping me here," she said with a wry twist of her lips.

Liz relented and sighed, reaching out to touch Alli’s hand, "I’m sorry... I just don’t know what else I can do besides warn you... I guess you have to decide for yourself," she said solemnly.

"I know... I know," Alli said, releasing a huge sigh. Suddenly her salad didn’t look appetizing at all.


Five o’clock had come and gone three hours ago for the President of Whitton, Inc. Sighing aloud and looking at the clock, M.J. told herself that it was time to go home and get out of this hell-hole that she called her ‘career’. She gathered her things half-heartedly, not caring if she left her desk looking like a mess for a change. Trudging wearily out to the elevator, she climbed into the car and pushed the garage-floor button mindlessly.

The elevator rode down only a few floors before the chime sounded and the doors opened, revealing the tired face of the Finance & Payroll Director. Liz Jacobs’ earthy eyes flashed with a brief look of anger as she regarded her boss. M.J. responded with a small, polite smile, but was slightly puzzled by the sudden and obvious pissed-off look on Liz’s face.

More Christmas-party backlash, I suppose, she thought with an internal eye-roll. The Finance Director climbed aboard stiffly without a word, keeping her gaze fixed on the elevator’s digital display panel.

"Working late?" M.J. asked with feigned innocence as the ride downward began. If Liz was pissed at her about something, she wanted to know what it was. She was tired of getting the cold shoulder from everyone, and if she needed to push the woman until she broke under a barrage of questions and innuendos, that’s what she’d do.

"Yes," Liz said in a clipped tone, refusing to look at the President, "Carole and I have been working on those budget-projections you wanted this week."

M.J. paused for a moment, crinkling her brows, "Why isn’t Carole here working late with you?"

Liz pursed her lips and gritted her teeth as she continued to stare at the decreasing numbers on the display panel, "Because Carole has a family, and I don’t like asking her to stay late night after night."

"Why not? If it’s necessary to get the assignment completed on time, then you have every right to ask." M.J. sniffed matter-of-factly.

"Yeah, well, *some* of us have more *scruples* than others when it comes to taking *advantage* of their office *assistants*," Liz said, stressing the words with heavy innuendo.

"...What?" M.J. asked, unable to conceal her confusion.

"Nothing." Liz closed her eyes and shook her head. This was the last thing she wanted to be faced with today — tangling with *this* woman.

"No - what are you trying to imply, Liz?" M.J. said, now irritated with the Finance Director and well aware that Liz was hinting at something that obviously had her provoked.

"Nothing, M.J. Forget it. You just... go ahead and live your carefree, ruthless life as you always do." Liz said with forced indifference, flicking her hand for emphasis.

"Well gee, Elizabeth, I’m sorry, but I didn’t think any aspect of my *ruthless* life was any of *your* business... is it?" M.J. spat out tersely, turning to face Liz and pinning her with a harsh, steely-blue glare, her anger flaring dangerously.

"It is when it concerns a friend of mine." Liz said lowly, finally turning and locking stares with the taller woman.

"Really? And just what ‘friend’ might that be?"


"Ohhhh, I see," M.J. said flippantly, making an exaggerated face. The elevator had finally reached the parking-garage level, and it chimed brightly as the doors opened. M.J. ignored it, however, as she continued to hold Liz in a burning blue stare.

"So let me guess - you’re going to turn this into another Alex Wicszleski situation, right?" M.J. asked, stepping in closer to Liz and intentionally towering over the slightly shorter woman.

Liz refused to budge, however, and she glared right back at the President, engaging them in a silent little five-second show-down.

"Jesus Christ, Liz... you need to get a fucking *life*!" M.J. finally growled as she broke the staring-contest and turned, walking out of the elevator. Before she got away, however, Liz ran after her, catching her by the arm. M.J. trailed bright, ominous-looking, aquamarine orbs from the hand that gripped her arm up to Liz’s eyes, and the Finance Director immediately released her, keenly aware of the dangerous territory she was now treading in.

"Funny that you should mention Alex Wicszleski," Liz began with determination. "What you’re doing to Allison is eerily similar to the ‘Alex situation’, isn’t it? You don’t seem to learn your lessons very well, M.J." Liz sneered, not caring if the tall brunette decked her or what.

"This is *nothing* like the ‘Alex situation,’ Liz — don’t even *try* to draw a comparison," M.J. replied lowly, her eyes darkening further as she took another step and leaned in toward Liz, bringing them very close. "You have *no* idea what really happened back then, so just do everyone a favor and keep your own goddamn nose on your own goddamn face!" She growled through clenched teeth.

"Oh yes I do know — Alex was my friend too, and I know *exactly* what happened!" Liz spat. She was already in deep; she figured she might as well go for broke. "You used her and then cast her aside, like she was nothing but a two-bit whore! You–"

M.J. cut her off sharply, "*You* don’t know SHIT, Elizabeth!" She cursed, her lips pulled back in a feral sneer. Her face was so close to Liz’s that the Finance Director could feel the puffs of breath against her face. "You only know what Alex told you, and I can ASSURE you that her version was *VERY* skewed! Alexandra Wicszleski WAS a two-bit whore, and she was fucking PSYCHOTIC! You think you knew her, but believe me - you *didn’t*! No one did! She got *EXACTLY* what she deserved!" M.J. poked a finger, hard, into Liz’s chest as her shouts echoed loudly off the concrete surfaces of the parking garage.

"Fine, M.J., fine... say whatever you want and justify yourself however you need. All I know is that you *used* Alex, and you’re doing the *same* damn thing to Allison!" Liz yelled, feeling a little nervous at the anger radiating off the taller woman.

"Is that what Allison thinks, or is that what *you* think?" M.J. asked, pinning the Finance Director with a dark, but suddenly calm, stare.

Liz said nothing, she just continued to give M.J. her best glare in return.

"...Yeah, that’s what I thought," M.J. said disgustedly, bringing herself back up to full height and out of Liz’s face. "Allison is a big girl; if she has a problem with me, then I fully expect her to discuss it with *me*, and no one else — *especially* not you." M.J. said with finality as she turned abruptly and stormed off toward her car.

Liz watched her go, throwing daggers at her the whole way.

"Christ... what in the hell could Alli *possibly* see in you?" Liz grumbled to herself, then turned and walked toward her own car.




"Can't think of anything to do,

Yeah, my left brain knows that all love is fleeting,

She’s just looking for something new,

Yeah, I said it once before,

But it bears repeating now;

Fell in love with a girl,
Fell in love once and almost completely,
She's in love with the world,
But sometimes these feelings can be so misleading." — The White Stripes




When M.J. finally got home that evening, she was angry and frustrated. The little run-in with Liz Jacobs left her with a lingering feeling of guilt, and she detested that. She wanted to deny that the woman’s harsh words didn’t hold an ounce of truth, but deep down inside, she knew she couldn’t. She was playing with Alli, that was true, but what Liz didn’t know was that she had been thinking more and more that she might have feelings for Alli, and that’s what made everything different.

As she sat in her living room, staring at the walls and trying to decide if she was going insane, she contemplated going out for a quick ‘fix’ to distract herself and preoccupy her troubled mind. She decided against it, however. Having mindless, anonymous sex with some bimbo wouldn’t ease anything; it would only complicate things further. Instead she changed into work-out clothes and released her fury and frustration on an unsuspecting punching bag, occasionally picturing Liz Jacobs’ face on the side of the canvas.

After working herself to the point of exhaustion, she shed her sweaty clothes and headed for the pool, needing to take a long, relaxing dip. Hanging her arms along the edge while letting her body float in the warm water, M.J. began to seriously ponder her relationship with Allison Phillips.

She wondered how long Alli would remain pissed at her, and she tried to back-track and figure out what started the two of them down the strange path they seemed to be on. Usually she didn’t bother thinking deep thoughts like this — especially about someone else. Fretting over feelings — hers or anyone else’s — was a waste of her time. She preferred to just focus on the day-to-day dealings of her life... she liked to lose herself in her work and shut off the outside world. It was so much easier that way. But things hadn’t been easy since Allison had come along. Things were now hopelessly complicated.

She wanted to convince herself that it wasn't attraction she felt for Allison; she wanted to say that it was just friendship... co-workership... whatever you want to call it. Granted, it was an unusual relationship that currently seemed to be on the skids, but still, it was more than she’d had in a very long time. She momentarily thought that she could blame it all on feeling confused because she'd forgotten what having a friend was like.

I've just forgotten how to feel close to another human being, besides Madison, and sometimes I don’t even really feel that close to her, she thought. ...But that wouldn’t work. If this ‘thing’ between the two of them was really just ‘friendship’, then why did she continually notice every little thing about Alli? Why did she find herself anticipating every emotion that danced across her soft features... why did she find herself always staring at the little cleft of her upper lip... why did she constantly marvel at the extraordinary color of her expressive, deeply-set eyes... why was she so hypnotized by the tantalizing scent of the smaller woman...? Why didn’t she just dismiss her, like she did everyone else?

...You know why, her subconscious taunted. Stop lying to yourself!

Damn, why can’t I just stop thinking about all this?! M.J. thought as she released her arms and sunk completely down into the pool, hoping to drown her melancholy before she drowned herself.

So what if I never admit the truth? So what if I’m lying to myself? ...It’s a comfortable lie, she thought.

The truth was that it had nothing to do with the fact that they’d be crossing the ‘just friends and co-workers’ line... it had nothing to do with work at all. Their working together closely was just happenstance, albeit a fortuitous one. Alli never asked why M.J. called upon her so often; she never asked if there wasn’t someone else M.J. should call instead of her; she just answered whenever the President beckoned. They clicked with each other right from the very start, and the flirting and bantering took off from there.

So M.J. was fairly certain, when she was honest with herself, that Alli was attracted to her just as much as she was attracted to Alli. The knowledge of the attraction isn’t what scared her — she got off on that part, so that wasn’t the problem. And the anxiety wasn't because she was trying to avoid an entanglement out of the worry that it could go sour and things could end badly — whenever M.J. had allowed herself to fantasize about the possibility of a deeper relationship with Alli, the fear of things not working out didn't scare her.

Alli would never hurt me... at least, not like I’d hurt her. She surfaced, wiping the water from her eyes and blinking rapidly.

So what is it then? What makes me float here, listless and miserable, agonizing about all this and torturing myself with these ridiculous thoughts? What am I scared of? She floated, treading water in the deep end of the pool, not wanting to answer herself, but feeling it push to the forefront of her mind anyway.

...Needing someone. I’m afraid of what it feels like to need and be needed. I'm afraid of what it means. I've never wanted anyone quite like this before, and I’m afraid that if I need her too much, I’ll end up losing myself. I almost made that mistake before... I can’t make it again.

It had been such a long time since she’d truly felt anything for anyone, let alone something this strong and this intense. And maybe she had never really felt it before at all? Maybe she wasn’t sure that it was ‘need’ that she was feeling?

...Or maybe I *am*, and that’s why I'm so scared? ...Goddddd #$%&*!! She closed her eyes and sunk back down into the depths of the warm water again.

So what was the answer? What should she do about it, if anything at all? Realistically, she knew that she should just continue to play the denial card and keep playing her little games with the feisty blonde — they were damn good at it, after all. But, she also knew that a time was rapidly approaching when she was going to have to face the music. They couldn’t keep up this pace forever, and when the moment of truth arrived, she truly didn’t know what she’d say or do.

Even if I could admit... whatever, to myself, I could never admit anything to Alli. M.J. thought that the possibility of them being anything more than co-workers had to be non-existent, especially since she fucked the blonde over with the whole Christmas-party fiasco. Before that, she might have bet that Alli would have been willing to venture into uncharted territory... but now, she couldn’t be sure. She surfaced again, catching her breath and blinking the water away.

Okay, so I’m an idiot... so I’ll just keep things copasetic between us... just treat her as I have been... maintain a safe, cool distance... yeah, yeah, that’s the ticket. ...Not. Goddamn... I am in *serious* fucking trouble, she thought, shaking her head as she closed her eyes and let her body slip beneath the surface of the water again.


When Alli finally walked through the door of her apartment that night, she was exhausted beyond words. The day had been too busy, and too full of emotional stress. Her angry run-in with M.J. was fraught with sexual tension, the lunch with Liz had turned into a major guilt-trip, and to top it all off, some idiot nearly ran her off the road on the way home from the Chinese take-out place, and her dinner had tipped-over on the seat of her car.

She was in her kitchen cleaning up the dripping mess that, fortunately, managed to contain most of itself to the inside of the paper bag, when her telephone rang.


"Alli!" Kaitlyn’s voice rang out, making Alli smile in relief. It was a nice ending to a stressful day.

The two sisters talked for nearly two hours, discussing everything from their mother to their menstrual cycles. When the conversation veered into ‘work’ territory, Kait noticed that Alli grew a bit quiet.

"So everything’s going well then?"

"Yeah, everything’s fine." Alli answered unconvincingly.

"How’s it going working for the big boss... what’s her name again? B.J.?" Kait asked, intentionally trying to sound casual.

Alli laughed and shifted her position on the sofa, "M.J., and that’s going okay too... most of the time," she mumbled under her breath.

"What? Whaddya mean?" Kait pressed, sensing she’d hit upon a sore spot.

"Nothing... everything’s fine," Alli insisted with a sigh.

"C’mon Alli... I know that sound... what’s wrong with your big boss-woman?"

"Nothing!" Alli said with a laugh, "She’s okay, really," she tried to sound more convincing.

"’Okay’? Just ‘okay’? You don’t like her?" Kait asked

"Yah, I like her... most of the time," Alli hedged again.

"’Most of the time’? What does that mean?" Kait squeaked playfully.

Alli laughed again, "*Nothing*, Kait, alright? She’s like most bosses — usually fine, but she has her... *moments* too," Alli said.

Kait made a ‘hmm’ noise and paused for a second, "Y’know, you never did tell me if she’s pretty?" she asked playfully.

Alli made a groaning sound, "Don’t even go there Kate — she’s the *President*," she said.

"So," the older woman persisted.

"SO... how would it look for me — the Human Resources Assistant Director — to be messing around with the company President!?" Alli said incredulously, "Let alone the fact that we’re both *women*!"

"Oooo, ‘messing around’? Alli! You *do* like her!" Kait said with a smile.

"No, I *don’t*! ...not like that," Alli tried to insist in her most convincing voice.

"Why not ‘like that’?"

"I *told* you, she’s the *President*!" Alli silently prayed that Kait didn’t push her for details; she couldn’t handle that right now.

"It shouldn’t matter what your positions or titles are, Alli. If you like each other, you should be able to date!" It seemed so simple to Kait, but then again, she was happily married... and hetero.

Alli laughed out loud, "The business world isn’t like elementary school, Kait... I mean, would you date your principal, for godssake?" Alli asked, trying to draw a comparison for her sister.

"Ugh! No way! He’s an old man!"

Alli sighed, "But if he WEREN’T... would you DATE your boss?"

Kait paused for a moment, thinking, "Yeah, sure... why not?"

Alli sighed in exasperation again, "Well, I can’t. It would be viewed badly."

"You concern yourself too much with what other people might think, Peanut," Kait said warmly, invoking her little sister’s detested pet-name.

"Don’t call me that. And I *have* to be concerned with what people think... I’m in HR... it’s my job." Alli insisted.

"No, that isn’t it. You just can’t let yourself go, Alli. You can’t let yourself hope that *maybe* you and this chick might be interested in each other."

"Oh please... god," Alli sighed, clapping her hand over her eyes.

"I’m serious! Have you even flirted with her or anything? She flirted with you?"

"Oh yessss... we’ve flirted quite a bit, actually," Alli said, making her eyes wide.

Kait smiled wide, "Well, okay! Then she likes you?"

"Noooo... you don’t understand, Kait — M.J. flirts with EVERYONE. We had a Christmas party, and she flirted shamelessly with evvveryyyone - including me. It’s just the way she is." Kait paused, momentarily at a loss for words.

"She’s one of those people who likes to fuck with people’s heads. She does it all the time. In fact, that’s why I’m not really on ... ‘good terms’ with her right now. I’m kinda tired of the head games." Alli admitted quietly, a little embarrassed.

"Hmmm... well, that’s too bad," Kait answered, unsure of what to say. She could tell that Alli was feeling a little deflated and wondered if all of it was due to this M.J. person.

"Yes... yes, it is." Alli answered with a deep, breathy sigh as she raked her hand through her hair.

Kait knew that noise, and she knew what it meant. "It sounds like you’re disappointed... are you?"

"Not disappointed, just... I dunno... I dunno what I am anymore, Kait," Alli mumbled as she let herself stretch out completely on her sofa, feeling suddenly dejected.

"Look, Peanut, I’m no head-shrinker — that’s your bag. But my suggestion is this... if you think you might like this woman, you gotta show her. Give her some reason to pay attention to you more than anyone else. Show her that she’s wasting her time flirting with those other people. If you want it bad enough, Alli, you gotta stick your neck out and take a chance. You’ll never hook-up with anyone if you don’t." Kait finished sincerely.

She loved her little sister dearly, but Alli’s reticence to date and take chances on romance was driving her nuts. She could tell that Alli was lonely, and it was a damn shame because she had so much to offer someone; she just needed a little kick in the pants to get the ball rolling. Maybe this M.J. woman wouldn’t be the one for her, but regardless, Alli needed to get out there and start testing the waters again.

"So... whaddya think, baby sis?" Kait inquired after a few seconds of silence.

Alli sighed deeply, "I dunno Kait. I’ll think about it, okay? That’s all I can say right now." She said, her eyes closed and her mind abuzz with a multitude of thoughts and fears.

"Okay... I’ll settle for that... for now," Kait answered with a smile in her voice, and it made Alli smile as well.




"But I don't care if you don't,
And I don't feel it if you don't,
And I don't want it if you don't,
And I won't say it,

If you won't say it first;

Oh oh oh... let’s go to bed." - The Cure




The New Year progressed with quiet banality, and the cool, gray bleakness of the January skies permeated everything and everyone. A few weeks passed with tensions remaining the same between Alli and M.J. One time they would meet and M.J. would act friendly, like nothing had ever transpired between them, and at other times, her cold, lifeless blue eyes would pass right through the blonde as though she were a total stranger. Alli seriously began to wonder if the woman had a split personality.

For her part, Alli tried to just go with the flow, but M.J. always made it difficult somehow. The aggravating brunette seemed to be able to read the Assistant Director like a book. If Alli was in a good mood, M.J. cut her down by being harsh; if she was in a bad mood, M.J. teased and flirted and threw her off-balance. Despite the insanity of the situation, Alli knew she was still very much attracted to the perplexing woman, no matter how schizophrenic she seemed or how dreadfully she treated her. Even with all the warnings and threats from Liz, and her own vow to keep her distance, it only took one sultry, side-long glance from those baby blues, and Alli was a goner. She spent many nights, alone in her bed, fantasizing about long legs and long fingers, and drowning herself with memories of deep, bewitching, azure pools. Of course she knew that she was a pathetic, hopeless love-fool, but she figured if she had to rely on a fantasy-figure for her jollies, why not employ the best?

There were times, however, when Alli’s senses would reign supreme, and she realized that the ridiculous love-hate cycle that the two of them were engaged in had to stop sometime. M.J.’s hot and cold behavior and constant chain-jerking was starting to affect her work as well as her personal life, and Alli was, quite frankly, tired of the torment. She vowed and declared to herself that some time, some day, when M.J. pushed her too far, she was going to call the aggravating woman’s bluff.


The day of reckoning came a little sooner than Alli bargained for. It was a Friday, and she had endured a long week of getting her chain yanked by her nemesis. M.J. burdened her with all sorts of assignments and hounded her with constant nit-picking and relentless questions about whatever she was working on. Alli was seriously ready to blow her stack.

It was the end of the day, and M.J. had asked her to drop off some paperwork before she left that evening. Dreading facing the tall pain-in-the-ass, Alli waited until the very last minute, as usual.

When she reached M.J.’s office, the President was parked at her desk in her standard position, tapping away at her computer. She didn’t look up as Alli walked in. She *did* look up, however, when Alli threw the requested paperwork carelessly onto her desk.

"That’s everything you need," Alli remarked flatly, not caring if the President reamed her out for being rude.

The corner of M.J.’s mouth curled upwards and she regarded the blonde saucily, "I doubt that *very* much." She said in a low, teasing voice as she picked up the pile of papers and flipped through them quickly.

Alli wasn’t surprised by M.J.’s inferred meaning, but since she wasn’t in the mood for jokes, she merely pursed her lips and rolled her oceanic eyes as she waited impatiently.

M.J. saw the body language in front of her desk and decided to torment just a little, "Have a seat while I look at this." She offered lightly as she rose from her chair and began to walk to the front of her desk.

"No thanks," Alli snapped back, "I have to get going."

M.J. glanced up, giving her a mildly curious look, "Hot date tonight?" She taunted.

Tch, I wish, Alli groaned internally. "None of your business," she instead asserted calmly.

M.J. merely smirked and continued to peruse the papers. Alli felt her impatience grow as M.J. took her good ‘ole time, enjoying making the blonde wait, obviously. Alli could only glance around the disturbingly stark office, wondering again why M.J. refused to add personal touches to the place.

Nothing personal... no attachment... no emotion... actually, it suits her quite perfectly; I don’t know why I’m surprised, Alli thought sarcastically.

The silence lasted for several minutes until M.J. suddenly turned and thrust the papers back toward Alli.

"Well this won’t do." She said with a disappointed sigh.

"What?! What do you mean?" Alli spouted angrily, snatching the papers from M.J. and staring at them incredulously. How dare this woman just throw all her hard work out the window?! She had poured over the figures for hours and hours; it was *exactly* what she had asked for!

"It’s not right," M.J. said indifferently. "The time frames and corresponding figures are all off," she shrugged carelessly.

Alli’s face was suddenly burning with red-hot anger. She knew damn well that the figures and time frames were perfectly fine. M.J. was just jerking her around — as usual — and pushing her buttons — as usual — and she’d had enough of it.

"Y’know what, M.J., - fine... you want me to do the whole damn thing over again - *FINE*... I’ll do it. But it’s gonna have to wait. I’m going *home*." Alli asserted, biting her words off harshly. Her face was red and pinched tight with impatience, and her temper threatened to spike right out her ears, but she refused to let M.J. do this to her yet again.

M.J. couldn’t help but smirk triumphantly at the fuming blonde standing rigidly in front of her. Of course she was being wretched, tormenting the poor girl like she was, but it seemed to her that Alli was asking for it with her insolent, combative behavior. She leaned back against her desk, crossing her arms and staring deeply at Alli’s flushed face.

"Yes, by all means, go home, Allison... take a nice, hot bath... *relieve* yourself, or *something*," M.J. said, lacing her feigned concern with sarcasm as she spoke in a low voice. She very blatantly let her gaze wander hotly up and down the petite figure in front of her. "It’s really not good for you to be so... *tense* all the time." She finished with a sly, predatory grin.

Alli was nearly livid. The woman just didn’t know when to stop. She just kept pushing and pushing. Would the torment never end? Alli couldn’t take it anymore... she literally felt something inside her chest burst, red and hot, and her ears were ringing.

"Why do you always do that?" Alli abruptly snapped, locking stormy, dark green eyes onto M.J.

"Do what?" M.J. asked calmly, a very subtle smile playing on her lips.

"Rake your eyes over me." Alli said with a continued glare.

M.J. had to fight to keep the smirk on her face from widening into a full-blown grin, "I *rake* my eyes over you?" She asked, feigning incredulousness.

"Yes, you *RAKE* your eyes over me... over my body. It’s rude and unprofessional." Alli said with haughty indignity, propping a hand on her hip and jutting her jaw out defiantly.

M.J. wanted to laugh out loud at the little woman’s forced act of disdain, but she refrained. Whatever Alli had stuck up her ass was obviously reaching the exploding point, and M.J. was glad to finally be getting to the source of the problem. If goading the blonde into an argument would help clear the air, then that’s what she’d do. Besides, she always enjoyed a good sparring match with a worthy opponent... and Alli was definitely worthy.

"Maybe I’m just admiring your choice of clothing." M.J. responded flippantly as she intentionally kept her eyes locked and her voice even and calm, the cruel smile firmly in place. She loved little heated exchanges like this, and she was impressed with Alli’s frank initiation of it. The bold, angry body language coming from the Assistant Director was beginning to turn her on, and she had to fight to keep her attention focused.

"Letting your gaze wander up and down my body is a funny way of admiring my *clothes*." Alli shot back, her own voice dropping a level as she quirked a scornful brow at the taller woman.

"Well what would you rather I do? Say ‘nice pants’ and walk away?" M.J. quipped as she stood up and placed her hands on her hips, taking a step toward Alli in an attempt to intimidate her.

The superior little smile that was perched upon the tall woman’s lips was taunting her intimately, and it meant that M.J. was, once again, trifling with Alli’s emotions. More than that, though... M.J. was daring her to make a move.

Alli refused to back away from it this time... she refused to let it continue. It was time for the audacious President to either put-up or shut-up.

"Maybe...," Alli said, her voice defiant but soft as she stood tall and refused to be bullied. "Or maybe I’d rather you just put your money where your mouth is and stop playing with me." She added, lowering her voice even more as she dared to step even closer to the brunette.

They were now separated by mere inches... cool, calculating, sky-blue eyes burned into Alli’s skin, and she could feel her heart-rate pick up rapidly. She couldn’t believe that she was actually doing this — confronting the woman who had been turning her on, pissing her off, and scaring the living shit out of her for months now.

M.J. looked down into bottomless eyes of light jade and felt her precious control falter for a second. She should walk away from this, she knew, but she was hopelessly spell-bound and immensely aroused by the petite woman in front of her.

"Maybe I like to play with you," M.J. finally managed to whisper roughly, watching Alli’s face carefully and enjoying the mixed display of escalating attraction and determined anger.

"Well maybe I don’t *like* to be played with." Alli responded emphatically, trying to make it sound like she was offended. She was... wasn’t she? Much to her chagrin, Allison found herself incredibly turned-on, and she was suddenly very aware that she was in a position to do something about it. She thought of a thousand reasons why she should turn and walk away from this, but she could only think of one reason to stay.

Alli stared deeply into cerulean eyes that had turned murky and dangerous. The dark smoldering look that had overtaken M.J.’s features and the provocative aura that emanated from her suddenly unnerved Alli entirely too much.

God... what the hell am I *doing*?! She thought in a sudden panic.

Perhaps she was too frightened and overwhelmed by the bristling intensity that was barely being concealed in the tall, imposing body in front of her, or perhaps she was just too much of a chicken to continue her barrage and actually take the plunge. Whatever the reason, Alli found herself panicking and turning away abruptly from the overpowering brunette, making a hasty exit out of the office and scurrying into the bathroom that adjoined it in the hallway.

Once safely inside the small bathroom, Alli slumped against the sink, cursing herself for being so forward and bold — openly baiting and then rejecting the goddamn President of the goddamn company.

Fuck, what is *wrong* with me?! What was I thinking, daring her like that?! Jesus *Christ* Allison! This is *NOT* what you should be doing!! She chided herself inwardly. You’re asking for it... you want her to do it, her subconscious piped in, and you’re jealous, she thought, shaking her head. You’re jealous because you know she does it with other women, and you’re stupid because you know she doesn’t want you the way you want her! She released a groan. Oh Jesus... JesusJesus, she thought, clutching her head in her hands. Is that really what I want?! Do I really want this ‘thing’ between us to turn physical? She had no answer for that question.

...Stupidstupidstupid. Her head pounded mercilessly as her mind warred with itself.

Whatever we have - or had - between us is nothing more than stupid flirting and competitive bantering, she thought, trying desperately to back-peddle. If she could convince herself and regain her composure, hopefully she could save face.

M.J. would never consider carrying-on with you like that... Christ, Alli, think about it! She can have any high-class attorney or rich business entrepreneur she wants! You are *way* out of your league here! You have to stop acting like a jealous teenager and let it GO! You’ll be damn lucky if she doesn’t fire your stupid ass!


Meanwhile, in her office next door, M.J. collapsed on the side of her desk with a plop.

Good God! Where did all that come from? Is she really *so* upset with me? As she thought about the possible reasons for the little blonde’s anger, she suddenly remembered what Madison had said to her about the way she carried-on at the Christmas party.

Is Alli just angry because of the way I fool around with everyone, or is it something else?

M.J. thought back to the brief Christmas-party-meeting between Allison and Kate, recalling the burning look in the redheaded attorney’s eyes. At the time, M.J. had found it funny that Kate was so obviously jealous.

Yeah, and to piss her off even more, I played it up by totally going overboard with Alli, M.J. remembered. So... Alli must have been pissed at me for using her like that, because the next week, she totally avoided me... it was suddenly all making sense to M.J. And instead of realizing what I’d done, I ended up treating her like shit. Fuck... good going, dumbass... no wonder she hates me.

She recalled the numerous angry interactions and the underlying hurt expressions that had flashed across Alli’s face during the last few weeks. She had refused to acknowledge them at the time, but M.J. knew they were there, and now she knew why. She had been too arrogant to realize and admit what she’d been doing to Alli, and she suddenly felt like a real ass for it. Add to that the run-in with Liz in the parking garage, and all the guilt came crashing down on her.

"FFFuck." M.J. whispered aloud as she walked over to her window, staring out at the city as darkness began to engulf everything.

I am such a bitch... I let my own stupid arrogance and need for control fuck up the one good thing that I going... the one thing that I really wanted, she snarled internally.

What am I saying — ‘really wanted’? Jesus Christ, M.J. ...what is *WRONG* with you?! She thought in a panic. I can’t ‘want’ her, for fuckssake! This isn’t supposed to happen! I don’t *want* this to happen! She recalled Maddy’s warning words to her — "...you can’t un-step lines and un-cross boundaries."

All the proper and improper things she’d done in the last several months and years instantly flashed through her mind as she forced herself to confront her real feelings for the blonde HR Assistant. All the stupid things she’d done, all the lies, all the mistakes, all the poor calls in judgment. Nothing had ever been ‘good’ or ‘fun’ or ‘nice’... it was all wrong, and all the people she’d ever gotten involved with had been wrong too. Her whole life just felt ‘wrong’ sometimes.

But Alli didn’t feel wrong. Alli felt right. She needed to talk to her... they needed to work this out. They needed resolution before they both went mad and destroyed all of the good things they had built between them. M.J. was admitting openly to herself, for the first time, that she had been wrong. To know that she was the one who had caused Alli’s hurt made her stomach twist into knots. And, to realize that she had feelings for someone that ran so deep that she actually, physically, ached inside, rocked her to her very core.

"God... I am so screwed," she mumbled aloud, clutching her head in her hands.



"This wasn't supposed to happen

I've been hit with your charm;

How could you do this to me?

I'm in love, again...

You've put a seed inside me

And while you're away

It's growing silently

Starts in my stomach

Embraces my insides

And about to reach my heart;

This wasn't supposed to happen..." - Sugarcubes




M.J. hadn’t heard Alli leave the bathroom, so she gathered her nerve and stood outside the bathroom, rehearsing again what she’d say to the angry blonde once she faced her. One: She’d apologize for the teasing and torturing; Two: If Alli accepted that and didn’t say anything, she’d apologize for her behavior at the Christmas party; Three: ...she didn’t have a three. She was hoping that Alli would just tell her ‘apology accepted,’ and she was *really* hoping that Alli would tell her that she secretly enjoyed the bad behavior, and would she like to come home with her and take things even further?

Oh for chrissake, knock it OFF! You’ll be lucky if she doesn’t spit in your face! M.J. screamed to herself as she took a deep breath and decided to just go for broke.

When she opened the bathroom door, Alli nearly jumped away from the sink counter. She honestly didn’t think M.J. would actually come after her.

Oh shit... now what? She thought in a panic. M.J. opened her mouth slightly to start her recital, but nothing came out. She could only stand in silence and stare at Alli’s beautiful flushed cheeks and wide, sea-green eyes. How dare her body be aroused at such an inopportune time?

Alli, in contrast, found herself frustratingly tongue-tied as well. She willed herself to say something — anything — but nothing came out.

You’ve already said enough, she scolded herself. Still... the look on M.J.’s face was like nothing she’d ever seen before. She couldn’t define it, and she honestly didn’t know if she wanted to. It was at first regretful, sad, and uncertain, then it suddenly became intense, dark, consuming, and a little bit frightening. Wicked thoughts quickly flashed unbidden through Alli’s mind, and her face flushed uncontrollably... she was going to go crazy if this continued.

The situation seemed to get more uncomfortable with each silent second, until finally Alli gulped down her embarrassment and fear.

"Excuse me, I have to go," she mumbled, brushing past M.J. in a desperate attempt to escape.

"Allison, wait," M.J. called out, spinning and striding after Alli quickly. She reached her just as Alli was fumbling clumsily with the door, pulling it open. M.J. came to stand right behind her and quickly reached a hand up above her head to push the door closed completely. Pausing for a moment, the taller woman then reached down with the other hand and slowly turned the lock on the door. The ‘snick’ of the deadbolt echoed loudly in the empty room, and Alli’s heart did a complete backwards flip.

Alli didn't turn around... she didn't move... she was absolutely petrified and glued to the floor. M.J.’s body barely touched hers, but she could feel the scathing heat emanating from the figure that completely surrounded her. Was this really going to happen? Right here, right now?! Did she *really* want it to happen? If so, she wanted to renege, *very* badly.

OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod, she thought in a mindless frenzy. The silence in the room was deafening and her heart thudded painfully in her chest, straining to burst apart.

M.J. just stood there for a moment, her eyes closed and her jaw clenched tightly as a battle raged inside her head.

I shouldn’t be here... I *shouldn’t* be doing this...walk away walk away... Goddammit! Their chemistry was already so overpowering; but now, here so close like this, it was like nitro-glycerin... incredibly volatile and ready to explode at the slightest jarring. M.J. knew she was treading in extremely dangerous territory... she could not let this little slip of a woman melt her resolve completely away... she had to maintain control. But dear god... she wanted her so badly.

M.J. stepped even closer, her body now pressing lightly against Alli’s backside, drawn to it like a magnet... her mouth barely touched the soft, flaxen strands of hair. Alli could feel the heat and the sexual tension rolling off the tall woman in waves. She was still gripping the door handle fiercely and standing stiffly, but she wouldn't turn around to face her captor. Her emotions waffled between paralyzing fear and burning desire... she had no idea what to do and wondered how long this little stand-off would last or which one of them would cave first. M.J. moved to place both her hands on the door so that her body totally imprisoned the smaller woman. Alli could feel wisps of M.J.’s breath in her hair and near her ear, and she closed her eyes and licked her lips nervously, her hand now trembling white-knuckled on the door handle. She almost thought she was going to be sick.

M.J. nudged her mouth in to touch Alli’s dainty ear slightly as her eyes drifted shut.

"What do you want, Allison?" She murmured deeply in her rich, sultry voice.

Alli’s eyes flew open and she felt the blood drain from her face and travel due south. She hesitated for a moment.

"I — I don’t know," she finally stammered quietly.

"Oh I think you do know," M.J. whispered seductively as she brought one hand up to lightly finger the buttons at the front of Alli’s blouse, "And I think I can give it to you." She whispered breathlessly into Alli’s ear as she slowly trailed her fingers down the fabric between the blonde’s breasts.

"*Oh God,*" Alli replied, equally breathless, her eyes fluttering shut and her mind barely able to comprehend what was happening.

What are we doing?! This is wrong This is wrong This is *wrong*! Her mind screamed as she felt M.J.’s hands begin to roam gently up and down her body, setting it aflame instantly. How can something so wrong feel so fucking good? Alli idly wondered, her heart racing as she succumbed to the surprisingly delicate touches of the overpowering woman behind her.

M.J. closed her eyes and let her fingers explore the soft, supple body beneath her, finally sliding a hand upwards to caress and linger hesitantly on a silky, slender neck. It was a well-rehearsed, age-old scenario of conquest for her, yet somehow, here with Alli, she didn’t want it to progress in the same cold, rough, emotionless manner as usual. She wanted to take her time and be gentle with this precious package.

She’s not just some pick-up... this is Alli... and I want this to be different, M.J. thought with determination. ...It *has* to be different.

The brunette pushed her nose further into the fragrant, blonde tresses as she let both hands drift down to the waistband of Alli’s slacks. Long, nimble fingers unbuttoned and unzipped the garment deftly, pushing it down off the slender hips with ease.

Alli shuddered and her chest sucked deep lungfuls of air as she stood there and very willingly submitted to M.J.’s domination. She placed her palms on the door, feeling the need for stability as her head spun and her legs became dangerously unstable. She felt completely powerless and allowed M.J. to command every fiber of her being. Yes, she knew this was horribly wrong; yes, she knew she was giving in to her own lust; yes, she knew she’d probably hate herself in the morning; but... she was unable to stop, and, she realized, she just couldn’t make herself give a damn.

Alli leaned her forehead against the cool wood of the door and she gasped aloud when M.J.’s cool fingers suddenly slipped inside her silken panties and invaded her juicy recesses with swift, smooth ease. The small woman’s body collapsed against the door and she let out a deep-throated groan as M.J. immediately began a gentle stroking motion between her thighs.

"Shhhh," M.J. shushed gently against her temple. She was so incredibly aroused; she could feel Alli’s unabashed response as she quickly began to veer out of control, and her own body rushed forward as she plundered the luscious ripeness beneath her, over and over.

"Yesss... let me feel you," M.J. growled in a low whisper, automatically positioning herself as she always did. Holding on to Alli tightly with her other hand, she molded her body fully against the petite form and pressed her hips against the small, firm ass. M.J.’s breathing hitched as she felt Alli push back against her and move her hips more insistently against the hand nestled at the juncture of her thighs. It suddenly occurred to M.J., however, that it didn’t matter if she got off or not — she just wanted to do this with Alli. Whether it was as a ‘favor’ to the blonde or simply another stupid ‘conquering’ moment for herself, she didn’t know... she’d have to think about all that later.

M.J. continued to urge Alli on, grinding her hips a little more insistently... they were both very close. As soon as M.J.’s thumb applied pressure to Alli’s overly-sensitized button, the frantic blonde gasped several times and trembled violently, her buttocks clenching, her knees buckling, and her hands clawing at the door for support. Feeling the small body quake beneath her, M.J. released a breath that she didn’t know she’d been holding, and she slid her arms up underneath Alli’s to support her weakened, faltering form.

Alli emitted a breathless sigh and collapsed further against the door, resting her forehead on the wood surface again. M.J. let her body lean forward slightly, allowing her face to relax into the soft, flowery-smelling hair while she caught her breath and calmed her racing heart.

After a few seconds of labored breathing, M.J. pushed away slightly but continued to let her tall frame encase the smaller woman with her palms resting on the door on either side of the blonde head. She knew this was her critical point - this was normally the time when she brushed off her anonymous sex partner and walked away without care. But this time was different... this wasn’t some nameless, faceless woman... this was Allison... this was someone whose feelings she truly gave a shit about.

God... how could I have let this happen? She thought in shock.

She was roused from her thoughts by movement. She felt warm skin brush against her forearms... soft lips barely grazed the fine hairs that covered her hands. Alli was doing something unmentionable - she was touching her lips to her.

M.J. had to fight to keep herself from jumping back and running away. Her fingertips turned white as she pressed her hands against the door, resisting the urge to push away from the petite form beneath her. She had no idea what to do... she was genuinely confused by her conflicting feelings and a flush of panic spread through her body. She squeezed her eyes closed and tried to concentrate, but instead, she felt Alli disentangle her arms and turn around to face her.

Oh no, oh no oh nooo, she thought with dread. When she felt no arms nor hands touch her, M.J. opened her eyes. Alli’s bright green-blue orbs stared straight at M.J.’s chest, and her lips were slightly parted while her chest continued to rise and fall rapidly. Her face was flushed and her delicate features portrayed a combination of lustful after-glow, amazement, and sheer panic. ...M.J. thought she was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.

They were so close together, it would only take a slight downward movement for her to capture the deep cleft at the top of those sweet lips.

God no! No kissing, no kissing! M.J. thought as she watched Alli’s face carefully for an indication of what else she was feeling. Seemingly sensing M.J.’s dilemma, Alli slowly brought her eyes up to meet the taller woman’s. The unspoken thoughts and intense looks that passed between the two women were composed of shared fear, stupefied shock, worrisome uncertainty, and residual desire.

Staring at each other for a long moment, M.J. found herself drifting in closer to Alli. She absolutely refused to let her lips touch the blonde’s, but she could not stop herself from letting them graze the small woman’s forehead fleetingly. Alli’s eyes fluttered shut at the sensation, and she returned it by allowing the corner of her mouth to brush along M.J.’s jaw.

Alli somehow seemed to understand that sharing a passionate kiss would, in some strange way, signal the crossing of an important, but unspoken, boundary for the tall brunette.

So they didn’t kiss; they silently and haltingly explored each other for a few moments with fleeting, gossamer caresses using only their facial features. Parted lips grazed a throat and faintly touched a temple; cheeks brushed along cheeks and jaw lines; noses plundered soft hair and inhaled fragrances. Alli thought it was the strangest, most sensual thing she’d ever experienced.

After a tension-packed minute, Alli finally pulled back a little and looked up into M.J.’s dark, hooded eyes. They stared at each other deeply for what felt like a lifetime, trying to convey emotions and perhaps thoughts, and Alli wondered if either one of them would, or could, say anything. It didn’t take her long, however, to see that M.J. was not going to open up; the tall, austere woman protected herself well. Surely she’d had more than enough practice at cutting all ties and covering up after little ‘incidents’ like this.

Alli watched in amazement and horror as the brunette’s face transformed from sensuous passion to cold indifference in a matter of seconds. M.J.’s countenance was suddenly stony, closed, and impassive, and Alli sadly realized that the little ‘encounter’ was not only an enormously foolish mistake, it was also quite over.

Acutely feeling the invisible slap to her face, Alli straightened herself up and reached down to fix her panties and re-zipper her slacks, fighting very hard to keep her emotions under control. Her eyes burned painfully with the sudden build-up of tears, and she struggled to keep her composure.

M.J. hated that she was too overwhelmed to bring herself to say anything, but at the same time, she realized that this experience was, in a very strange way, a momentous occasion for her. Even though she just had some very inappropriate sex with one of her employees, she didn’t feel compelled to run away like she usually did; moreover, she didn’t really want the encounter to end. She wouldn’t deny that she felt something very strong for the petite blonde who was hastily adjusting herself in front of her — she did — she just didn’t know what to do about it. Should she say something? Should she do something? Should she just give it up and kiss her?


A conflicting battle was warring noisily inside her head, but - ever the stoic one - her hardened, aloof persona unconsciously took over, and she continued to stand there and say nothing, like a damned fool.

Sensing defeat, M.J. finally dropped her arms, freeing Alli from their enclosure as she stood herself up fully and stepped back. They exchanged silent, anguished looks one last time before Alli finally turned back to the door, unlocked it, and slipped out, posthaste.




"In a trap, trip, I can’t grip,
Never thought I'd be the one who'd slip,
Then I started to realize,
I was living one big lie;
She fuckin’ hates me... trust,
She fuckin’ hates me... la-la-la-love,
I tried too hard, and she tore my feelings,

Like I had none...and ripped them away." — Puddle of Mudd




M.J. spent the next five minutes standing in the bathroom in silence, her mind warring with itself over what was happening to her. She was exceedingly attracted to Allison — that was a no-brainer — and she knew that Alli was attracted to her as well. But... to throw everything away and give in to her want... to falter and allow herself to express the desire and act on it, knowing that she’d end up causing hurt in the end — that was the part she was having trouble with.

...I’m *such* a fucking *idiot*! she chastised internally, over and over.

How many times had she fantasized about the blonde and stopped it abruptly, telling herself, ‘don't go there’. How many times had she told herself that she would not act on her lustful thoughts, that it just could not be? ...She’d lost count long ago. She knew she had promised Madison that she would behave; she knew the ‘rules’ were set, and she had forced herself to live by them... until now. Not only had she broken the ‘rules’, she had probably broken Alli’s heart along with them.

M.J. thought back to all the times she and Alli had talked and worked side by side. All the lunches and enjoyable moments they’d shared. How their eyes interlocked and neither one could turn away... how Alli’s simple presence in a room brightened it, even when they were sniping and torturing each other... how whenever Alli spoke and flashed a simple smile, M.J. nearly melted. To say, at this point in the game, that she was merely ‘attracted’ to Alli was a huge understatement. She had wanted the blonde in a way that she’d never wanted anyone before. She just couldn’t believe that she let herself give in to it so damned easily. She claimed that she wanted it to be different, but it ended up being no different after all.

All the affairs and dalliances she’d had in the past had been with people whom she didn’t *really* like nor respect. She saw the casual sex as ‘favors’ or ‘niceties’ for people who fawned over her and willingly submitted to her, no matter what she asked. She liked to be in control, and she knew she held the power; she wielded it freely, and sometimes cruelly. She saw the anonymous, rough sex as mere conquests, diversions, and head-games, meant only to purge her demons whenever they arose and demanded satiating. None of those people really mattered to her. They were people she didn’t care for... people she had no feelings for... people she hadn’t *fallen* for.

*Fallen for?* ...my God... it can’t be, M.J. thought to herself. I cannot be *falling* for her... I cannot *need* her! She screamed inside her head and covered her eyes with trembling hands.

"God... what the fuck am I *doing*?!" She whispered angrily to herself, her eyes burning — for the first time in many years — with the threat of tears.

Was she really falling for Allison? The thought of it filled her heart with absolute mind-numbing fear. Fear... and pain. Falling for someone meant pain — they went hand-in-hand, always. She thought of the look on Alli's face right before she bolted out of the bathroom... her sea-green eyes were red-rimmed and so full of hurt. She was hurting already and they hadn’t even gotten started yet. How could anything possibly work out between them?

Nothing ever works out, no matter how much you want it to, M.J. thought dejectedly. She’ll hate my guts now, who am I fucking kidding?!

But did she want it to ‘work out’ with Alli? Did she really want her? *Need* her?

...Goddddd! She squinted her eyes and squeezed her hands into fists,

"I can’t do this... I *won’t* do this! Not again!" she mumbled aloud, shaking her head.

Her thoughts began to invade relentlessly, ruthlessly, filling her head to the breaking point with things she didn’t want to think about and visions she didn’t want to see. A panic began to well inside her, and she visibly shivered. She felt like the room was closing-in on her, caging her inside a deadly trap. Her fear was suddenly so acute she could feel beads of sweat gathering at her forehead.

Everything had suddenly become so real... so significant; it felt like her heart was being squeezed in a vise. M.J. realized, for the first time in her life, her feelings were completely out of her control.

And she was truly and thoroughly scared.


Alli managed to make it back down to her office before she totally lost it and burst into tears. Thankfully, everyone had gone home, but she slammed her door anyway as she openly let the anguish come. The sobs wracked her small body and she collapsed into her chair, wrapping her arms around herself tightly.

This is insanity... how could I let this happen? I know that she’s just playing with me! How could I be so *stupid*!? She thought as her mother’s harsh words from years ago rang in her ears. Is this all my fault? Is M.J. to blame for any of it? At this point, she really wasn’t sure. I didn’t say ‘no’... I didn’t try to stop it... would she have stopped? Did she know that I wasn’t about to stop her? ...Jesus Christ. Her head began to throb from crying and thinking, but the questions continued to pile up relentlessly.

Does M.J. feel anything at all for me? Does she have any idea how I feel about her? How can we face each other now? Could we even continue to work together? Panic was now added to the mix of crying and thinking. I should leave... find a new job... but I can’t leave now, I’ve only been here a few months... how would that look to a prospective new employer? ‘Why are you leaving Whitton, Inc. already, Miss?’ ‘oh, I fucked the boss’ — yeah, that’d be nooo problem, Allison... Jesus... I feel sick to my stomach.

It took a long time for the feeling of nausea to pass. Once she regained control of her faculties, Alli gathered her things and stopped in the bathroom to splash some cool water on her face, hoping to reduce the red puffiness around her eyes.

Knowing she looked like hell, she snuck out to the elevator and successfully made it to her car without running into anyone. Her self-loathing and self-blame was now giving way to anger. She knew she was at fault for what happened, but so was M.J.

It takes two to tango, as they say, and M.J. is the lead dancer. She recalled all their flirting and teasing, all the power-plays and the head-games.

It may be my fault for being weak and giving in, but it’s her fault for abusing her power. She knew I wouldn’t stop her... she knows she’s the one in control. She manipulated me, just like Liz said... she used me. She shook her head and closed her eyes. So much for saving myself for ‘the right one’... shit. She berated herself inwardly.

She had casually screwed around with a few women before, years ago, and she had achieved orgasms with some of them, but none of them had ever brought her completely to her knees the way that M.J. just did. And they had been mild acquaintances only — women that she knew and sort-of liked, but didn’t feel anything for. Her being semi-friends with them had always made her feel somewhat guilty about what was expected, post-sex. She usually wasn’t interested in any kind of serious relationship with them, and she didn’t like the messy emotional entanglements that such liaisons created. She was always too nice to simply ‘fuck and run’, so she decided to just stop it altogether, causing her to be celibate for several years now.

She sometimes considered picking up an anonymous woman at a bar so that she could just purge herself and get it over with, with no strings attached, but she never went through with it. She told herself that it was because she ‘wasn’t that kind of girl’. Her more recent experiences had been limited to lots of kissing and some light touching and fondling, but that was all she ever allowed.

And now, here I am with a woman who won’t even kiss me, but who just gave me the biggest orgasm I’ve probably ever had... *JESUS*! She cringed, shaking her head in an attempt to clear it.

I’ve always been so good at staying in control... how could I just give myself away like this? She asked herself. Easy, stupid — the two of you have been engaged in intense foreplay for six months!

It was more than that, though. M.J. was simply a force that her body and soul could not reckon with. The tall woman overwhelmed her... she overpowered her... she caused Alli’s rational mind to completely shut down so that her libido could come out to play. She had never felt the pull and attraction that she felt with the gorgeous brunette. Something about M.J. called out to Alli... the chemistry between them was very real and very powerful. Alli felt it, and she was sure that M.J. felt it too.

Yes, and she used it... she used it against me! Her angry inner voice reminded her. Well no more... never again... I’d rather be lonely and miserable than go through this, she swore up and down to herself.

Alli was angry with M.J., but she was angry with herself too, and disappointed with her total lack of willpower. She knew that M.J. was a player; she had vowed not to give in to her game... but that’s exactly what she did — in a very big way.

She’s probably on the phone, laughing it up with Kate Reed right this very minute... carving another notch in her desktop... stupid... stupidstupidstupid! Alli banged her fists on the steering wheel of her car.

‘Hating herself in the morning’ came several hours early.





end ch.’s 24 — 29

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