Actions

Work Header

A Mile for the Journey

Chapter Text

The divorce came through.

They had tried. Alicia had tried. But the heart could only be steered so far off course, before you started feeling lost.

She really shouldn’t complain. She’d had it easier than many of the couples she saw come through her law firm. Peter wasn’t happy about her decision, and it certainly wasn’t his preference; but he didn’t fight it tooth and nail, or keep anything from her out of spite. Still, it took several grueling months of mostly-civil negotiation, to work out arrangements with finances, property, and the kids, and by the time she finally had the official divorce decree in her hands, all she felt was exhausted.

And now, even though everything was tied up as neat and tidy as it could be, and she was finally free to do what she wanted to do and be who she wanted to be…

She wasn’t entirely sure what or who that was.

One of these days, she’d figure it out again. Exactly where she stood with her firm, her kids, her friends, her family. Maybe even with Will.

Will. They’d talked, during the months of her separation – probably not as much as they should have talked, but that was because neither of them trusted themselves completely, in matters concerning the other. There was no doubt that, after she had revealed her intention to leave Peter, his first thought had been what does this mean for us? And to be honest, it was on her list of preoccupying thoughts, too.

However, there were few things she was absolutely certain about – and one of the things she knew was that she couldn’t get out of one serious relationship, only to replace it with another. That was ill-advised on many counts. She wasn’t ready to be serious with anybody, and with Will…

Well, it couldn’t not be serious, if they made a decision to be together. There was too much history there, too many feelings. They both knew it, and that’s why they kept their talks mostly surface-level, even while their eyes exchanged questions of possibilities that might or might not go unrealized.

So life went on as usual. He was still dating Tammy (their relationship had surprising longevity, for Will – but Alicia just didn’t perceive a lot of excitement behind it, on his part), and she was still… figuring things out, she supposed. Waiting for a revelation.

Now, as she sat at her desk, staring at the decree in her hands, she didn’t get a revelation. She got Kalinda Sharma, instead.

Maybe Kalinda was a revelation. Alicia would never get over envying how easy Kalinda made everything look. Work, fashion, sex. Maybe that was the perk of being the mystery she was; if people didn’t know your complications, it was as good as not having any.

“I got the shots you wanted,” Kalinda told her, breezing in, all knee-high boots and business. “Your guy definitely likes the Omni Hotel. And he doesn’t like it alone.”

“Of course not,” Alicia breathed, quickly shoving her divorce document in her drawer to make room for the photos Kalinda was spreading across her desk.

“You’ll have to be the bearer of bad news, but the wife might stop lying to protect him.”

“Great.” Alicia looked grimly at the infidelity spread across her desktop. It brought her no joy, to think of the wife seeing these and the hurt that would follow, but Kalinda was right. It might just get her to start advocating for herself, rather than her husband. Her eyes flickered back up to her colleague. “Thank you. You did good.”

“No problem. I sent you digital copies. You need these?”

She didn’t really want them anywhere near her. “No. Take them, please.”

There was a flash of sympathy in Kalinda’s eyes. She never was terribly emotive – not on the outside -- but was always perceptive when Alicia was struggling; it was one of the reasons she’d become the closest thing Alicia had to a confidante, the months before and following her separation. “Got it.” She scooped the shots off Alicia’s desk with brisk efficiency and slipped them back in the folder she held, before changing the subject to: “I heard it’s official. Congratulations.”

Word got around. Alicia flexed her palms in the air in the mockest of celebration. “I’ve now officially failed at marriage. Give me a prize.”

Another person might have rushed to assure her just how courageous and justified was her decision to leave and divorce Peter; but this was Kalinda. “Is that how you feel?”

Alicia shook her head ruefully before propping it on her hand. “Ask me in another couple days. Or months. Or some other time when I’ve actually had a chance to think about it.”

Kalinda accepted that easily enough. “You’re single now,” she pointed out.

“I suppose I am.” It was odd, she and Peter had been separated for a few months, and it had been a strange limbo; but she had felt neither single nor together, and the piece of paper she received today did little to change that.

More than single, she felt… disconnected. But that still felt better than the lack of respect she had felt for herself, as she’d tried to make it work with Peter.

With no more business to attend to, Kalinda moved back toward the open door before pausing and tossing Alicia another look… and a question.

“You want to go out for a drink sometime?”

Alicia opened her mouth to respond automatically that God yes, she wanted, needed, required a drink, as soon and as much as humanly possible. But a split second later something sunk in – maybe it was the sometime, that made this overture different – and the words stopped up in her throat. She blinked. Cocked her head.

Kalinda observed her with patience, manila folder tucked to her chest – just waiting for a response so she could go on with her day.

“I…” What was this, that she couldn’t even form a sentence anymore? “Do you mean…?”

The exotic and dark eyes on her held both amusement and empathy for her struggling. “Yeah. Like that.”

Later she wanted to smack herself for being so damned shocked. She’d long had suspicions that men weren’t the only objects of Kalinda’s sexual interest, and she had even noticed her colleague looking at her, on occasion, with something that could very well be a spark of attraction. And it’s not like a woman being interested in another woman was some kind of damn novelty to her; hell, she’d attended PFLAG meetings with her parents and brother up until she’d moved away for law school.

Despite all that, she was now looking at Kalinda dumbfounded, as if she’d just requested accompaniment for her trip to the moon. “Oh. Well. I just…”

The next second was the first one where Alicia really, truly, completely believed that there was a god, because Diane swooped in the door from behind Kalinda, knocking brusquely and talking a mile a minute about a witness who needed extensive preparation to take the stand tomorrow.

Realizing this wasn’t to be a quick meeting, Kalinda gave her a short nod and made her exit, leaving Alicia to catch about every third word of Diane’s, while her mind was reeling at Kalinda’s far more succinct ones.

--


When she finally got a moment to herself to think about it, she decided that Kalinda must have been joking. Even if she were attracted to Alicia (the thought made a hot fluster run across her body; one so warm that she’d needed to shrug off her jacket), there was no way a young, sensuous, independent woman like Kalinda would want to date a middle-aged divorcee with two kids and a heap of leftover emotional issues.

It just didn’t make any sense.

But then again, Kalinda rarely joked. And she’d never gone out of her way before, to confuse Alicia or make her uncomfortable.

What did it matter anyway? Even if she were serious. Alicia wasn’t ready for dating, she had decided.

Especially not inter-office dating.

Especially not gay inter-office dating.

She was pretty damn sure of that. So it didn’t make sense, why it was bothering her so much when the answer was such a done deal. And now she didn’t know if Kalinda would ever bring it up again, unless Alicia said something.

Well, she had to say something about it. Having things hanging out there with no resolution had thus far been the story of her life, and she was sick of it.

So she used that frustration and burst of boldness when she saw her chance: as she spied Kalinda waiting by herself for the elevator. When the doors opened and she saw the car was empty, Alicia sprung into action and hurried to join her, making it just before the doors closed again behind them. Alone at last.

Kalinda raised a perfectly-sculpted eyebrow at her.

They didn’t have much time. “What you asked before… did you mean it?”

“Yes.” A simple reply, with no elaboration.

Well. There was one question answered. Which opened up all the rest.

Alicia leaned on the metal armrest that lined the perimeter of the elevator cage. “Well, ah… I’m flattered. But… I don’t think it would be a very good idea?” She hadn’t meant for the last word to rise like a question, but that was how it left her lips.

“Why not?”

She was afraid Kalinda would ask her that. “Because… I’m too old for you.”

Now she was the recipient of the ‘Kalinda is unimpressed by your bullshit’ look. Patent pending. “Oh come on. There are far too many better excuses, to use that one.”

A flushed frustration crept up on her. “It’s true, though! I have kids and a divorce and all this… baggage.” Her hands gestured helplessly.

“I know all that. And I asked you anyway.”

Kalinda never did anything without having calculated and thought it through three, four, a dozen times, and Alicia knew it. Shit.

She tried again.

“The divorce just went through. I’m not sure I’m in the best emotional place, for dating. And… there’s the fact we work together.”

“You know, you could just say ‘I’m straight.’ And that would be end of story,” Kalinda pointed out.

What was it about this woman that kept Alicia perpetually on the edge of not-completely unpleasant discomfort? The only time she was one hundred percent sure she liked it, was when they were drinking together. And even then, in the morning she often wanted to smack herself for how much she revealed just to keep Kalinda from looking at her the way she was now.

“I don’t always know what I am anymore,” she mumbled, looking downward. She was sure her face was as flaming red as the crimson sweater she was wearing.

The elevator dinged to a stop on the parking level, the doors sliding apart. Neither of them moved for a moment.

Kalinda’s voice edged on kindness; as much as it ever did. “Look, Alicia. I’m just proposing we get coffee. Not get married. Trust me, if it feels serious…” Her eyes rolled. “…I’ll be gone before you are.”

It was only a half-joke, but it served its purpose anyway. Kalinda was right. She was the last person Alicia needed to worry about encroaching on her new single, independent lifestyle. She wasn’t Will, or Peter, or anybody Alicia had ever been with.

And… Alicia liked her.

Kalinda stepped out of the elevator car and into the garage. The doors would shut again in a second, leaving Alicia behind – an opportunity forever closed off. Or at least, that’s how it felt. Some deep, sub-conscious part of her brain screamed at her.

It might have been that urgency that made her say what she said next. “Well… I suppose…” She took a deep breath. “Coffee never hurt anyone, right?”

Kalinda smirked. “Guess there could always be a first.”

“You’re not helping!” Alicia scolded, and just before the doors slid shut and separated them, she caught Kalinda’s smile.

“This weekend, then. Just coffee. I’ll call you,” Kalinda called, into the diminishing and then disappearing crack, leaving Alicia to wonder just how a decision could turn so fast, in the span of an elevator ride.

She had never been so nervous for coffee in her life.

--


It ended up being Sunday. Alicia forced herself into preoccupation on the Saturday before, going into the office to finish up some paperwork, and devoting the evening to doing some redecorating of her bedroom (even though it had been quite awhile since Peter had slept there, his influence was all over the walls and curtains and even the furniture, and it was one of her post-divorce resolutions to make it more hers). The distraction was successful until about ten in the evening, at which point she realized she had no idea of what to wear to a first, gay, inter-office coffee meet-up.

Forty minutes later, with approximately a dozen sweaters and blouses littering her bed, she had to force herself to meet her own eyes in the mirror and say, “Stop it.”

This was just Kalinda. They were friends. Just because they were going on a date (no, not a date, just coffee, she wasn’t ready for dating), didn’t mean Alicia had to turn into a nervous teenage girl.

Despite her own assurances to herself, her sleep was fitful, and in her dreams she navigated a labyrinth where no possible direction felt safe.

--


When Alicia showed up at the coffee shop Kalinda was there already, which surprised her (why did it surprise her? Maybe she’d figured Kalinda would enjoy the power of keeping people waiting); sitting with her laptop at a small, circular table in the middle of the busy shop. Her legs were crossed, posture perfect; and even though it was the weekend, she was dressed nearly the same as she did for work, save the pair of jeans that replaced her usual skirt.

Alicia paused in the entryway before she made her way over to make her presence known, looking at Kalinda. Processing the image, and trying to tease out the colleague, from the friend, from the woman.

In the past, she had passed off any attraction she may have felt for Kalinda as admiration or friendly affection. But now, in this circumstance, her awareness was honed on this woman as a sexual being –she felt that hot fluster from yesterday, returning again.

Kalinda’s eyes switched up as if she had sensed being watched, and found Alicia staring. Busted.

“Hey.” She motioned her over, closing her laptop with the other manicured hand.

Unable to postpone any longer, Alicia obeyed, forcing a friendly smile. “Hey. Were you waiting long?”

“I wasn’t waiting. I was working. But I’m glad you’re here, so I can stop.”

Alicia sat down across her gingerly, as if she didn’t trust that the chair was going to support her. Kalinda was gesturing to the barista, who made his way to the table and looked at Alicia expectantly, as Kalinda already had a mug sitting in front of her.

“Oh. Cappuccino?” Her stomach flipped at the mere word, and she reassessed. “Better make that decaf,” she told him. If her jitters got worse, she felt like she might just vibrate off her chair.

Kalinda, on the other hand, seemed steady as a surgeon, sipping at her coffee and regarding Alicia with interest. “You’re nervous.”

“Not nervous, exactly, just…” Her defense had come automatically, but then she realized it served no purpose. “Nervous,” she finished, eyes flitting downward.

And her nervousness stemmed, in large part, from having no idea how this was supposed to go. Was she supposed to do something different than the other times she and Kalinda had gotten drinks or spent social time together? Were they supposed to talk about how this was different, or ignore it altogether? Why was she doing this?

Instead of arguing with her about whether she should or shouldn’t be nervous, Kalinda chose a different course of action. “How was your weekend?”

Small talk. Small talk, she could handle. She breathed out a momentary and hopefully subtle sigh of relief. “It was fine. I’m slowly getting used having days where the kids aren’t around.”

Kalinda took a drink of her coffee, at the same time the barista returned with Alicia’s. She accepted it with a polite smile.

“Peter has them every weekend?”

“Mostly. We’re trying to be flexible, and it’s worked so far. But the breaks can be… nice, when you don’t have anybody sharing parenting duties with you during the week.” This topic couldn’t be interesting to Kalinda. Five minutes in, and Alicia already felt like an uninteresting date. “But… I worked a bit, and started my redecoration project in the bedroom.”

“Redecorating, huh? Your bedroom is so nice,” Kalinda mused.

That was right. Kalinda had been in her bedroom before. She'd even (albeit platonically, even professionally) been in her bed. All these details suddenly felt so much more important and… unnerving. “There were a few things I promised myself I’d do, once the divorce went through. Redecorating was one of them.”

“What were the others?”

“To take one day each week to myself, where I didn’t work at all. To spend more time with my children when I have them, to counterbalance the influence of my former mother-in-law. To start doing yoga again after… think it’s been about three years, now?” Alicia shrugged. “Those were the big ones.”

Kalinda tilted her head. “Is that therapy? It sounds like therapy.”

“God, no. I can’t go to therapy. I’d never leave.” She was only half-joking.

“That’s good. Because I don’t date people in therapy. Too many issues.”

Alicia blinked rapidly. “Really?”

Kalinda gave her a sideways, amused glance. “No. Not really.”

Of course. What was wrong with her? Was she so unhinged by this whole situation that she couldn’t participate in normal repartee? Apparently her sense of humor was one of the things she’d lost to Peter in the divorce. “Oh my God,” she sighed, certain she’d never blushed so much in her life as she had in the past few days.

Kalinda appeared to be trying to repress a smile or outright laughter. “Relax. This isn’t a test.”

Alicia rubbed her face. “I feel so stupid. Why didn’t we go out for a real drink? Tequila makes things easier.”

“I thought about that. But we often go out for ‘real’ drinks, so I just figured we’d do something different. As a distinction.” Kalinda gave her an enigmatic smile. “Why don’t you just see this as a break. Time for yourself. Part of your resolution.”

Alicia took a deep breath in, out. Gripped her mug hard, even as the over-heated glass burned her skin a little. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to just vent about the divorce to you, either. It’s… not a fun topic.”

“It’s on your mind.” Kalinda uncrossed and recrossed her legs under the table; her foot brushed Alicia’s calf and in her hyper-vigilant state she had to repress the urge to jump. “That’s natural.” A pause, and then something that Alicia was certain that she must have misheard. “When I got out of my marriage, it took some… adjusting.”

It was a good thing her experiences in court had trained her to mostly contain expressions of shock, or else she might have sprayed her sip of coffee all over Kalinda’s laptop. She swallowed it, hard. “Pardon?”

Kalinda regarded her with calmness, clearly confident that Alicia had heard the first time around.

“Kalinda, I had no idea. You were married?”

“Well,” she pursed her lips thoughtfully, as if she was considering the memory from a great distance. “It wasn’t exactly my choice.”

Alicia would never be able to comprehend the nonchalance that seemed to underlay this woman’s every word, every action, when she herself felt thrown so off-balance, her mind blown. “I… I don’t even know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything.” Kalinda seemed to be studying her, looking for hints of… something. “We all have things in our past. They happen, and you deal with them, and you move on. Just like you’re doing.”

Alicia’s mind was flooded now with a million questions, but Kalinda’s posture had changed, her eyes reflecting a new caution. And even though it had been her choice to drop this particular bombshell, now, her expression seemed to invite no further discussion of the topic.

Remembering how to move again, Alicia forced her mug back to her lips for another drink, trying to restore some sense of normalcy to all this. When she set it back down on the table, Kalinda was still regarding her stoically. Challenging her to… what? Push her? Drop it? Just get up and walk away?

“Kalinda Sharma, who are you?” she murmured aloud.

Unexpectedly, Kalinda tipped her head back and chuckled. “Best to figure out who you are, first.”

And maybe she had a point.

Then, she changed the subject, as if she hadn’t just told Alicia something that felt very serious. Especially for just coffee.

They talked for awhile then; slipping back into their comfort zone of discussing work ('comfort' being a loose term; even though it probably technically violated her 'one day with no work' resolution, it felt like a marginal relief). And Kalinda was pleasant, not at all awkward; her usual self, really, and it should have put Alicia further at ease.

But there was something in the back of her mind that wouldn’t let go of – what had Kalinda called it? – the distinction. They weren’t just colleagues relaxing after a hard week of work, or even just two girlfriends gabbing over a Sunday brunch.

They were two people who were attracted to each other.

She. Was attracted to Kalinda.

It wouldn’t let her go, and it wouldn’t allow her a moment of comfort. She stayed on edge, conversing mechanically through another cup of coffee, until Kalinda glanced at her watch.

“I have to go.”

“Yeah?” Alicia felt relief, and just the faintest trace of irrational disappointment.

“This has been fun, though. I hope we can do it again.” Without waiting for Alicia to reply, she stood, pulling her leather jacket off the back of the chair and shrugging it over her shoulders. Then she pulled out her wallet and put a few bills down on the table… enough to cover the entire tab.

When she saw Alicia start to protest, Kalinda held up a hand to stop her. “When you invite me, you can pay.” Alicia fell silent.

Kalinda leaned over and pressed her coffee-warm lips to Alicia’s cheek. “See you at work.” Then she made her exit, perfect hips swaying with each confident step.

Alicia’s face burned at the place Kalinda’s lips had touched, as if they had been heated to scalding. She had the sudden, crazy thought that they probably were; that everything that lay beneath Kalinda’s cool surface was inferno-hot, and maybe this was why Kalinda contained it so well – otherwise, she’d turn everyone around her to ash.

She sat for a long time by herself, while her remaining half-cup of coffee grew cold. She wasn’t sure what just happened, let alone whether she wanted it to happen again. But it would probably be a good thing to figure out.

--


One of the curses of her job – having work to do whether she was in the office, or at home – became a blessing for the rest of the day; even though it made her officially a failure at one of her 'resolutions.' She used it again as a marginally successful distraction technique, and missed her children desperately because they were always the very best diversion. Every time she took a break to eat or do chores or breathe, her mind returned to the same dilemma.

She’d had a date… with Kalinda (she was now past the just coffee thing, and if it wasn’t dating, it was still certainly a date). And even though they hadn’t done anything during the date that they never did the other times they spent together outside of work (that little kiss on the cheek aside), the intent was different – and that was enough to completely disrupt Alicia’s equilibrium. She’d always enjoyed Kalinda’s company, but she could barely do that when all she was thinking was how strange this all was.

And then, Kalinda had told her that thing. That thing that, coming from someone as private as Kalinda, was… stupefying. Why had she told her that, only to minimize it a moment later? It was so strange to consider that maybe, for Kalinda, none of this was a big deal – a past marriage, a new identity, or a date with her older, divorced co-worker.

This whole thing was out of Alicia’s element in a big way, and in the night after what was supposed to be just coffee she lay in bed and contemplated it. In those sleepless hours, the thought that this was crazy became more and more persistent.

It was silly for her, to pretend like she could just date Kalinda. To act like she could ever be comfortable dating a woman, or just have a ‘good time’ without at least the possibility of it becoming something more. Sexual orientation aside, Alicia liked relationships, and Kalinda…

Well, they were Kalinda’s mortal enemy.

By the wee hours, she had it figured out. That was it. She couldn’t do this. She was going to have to talk to Kalinda tomorrow and be straight with her, and try to get things back to normal.

The thought of being ‘straight’ with Kalinda struck her as hilariously funny, and before she finally drifted off to sleep, she laughed into her pillow at her own ridiculousness.

--


They didn’t have official “lunch breaks” at Lockhart Gardner, but the employees grabbed time when they could. Today, Alicia made it a priority when she found Kalinda en route to Diane’s office in the morning, and asked her if she wouldn’t mind taking a walk with her come lunchtime. A walk felt so cliché, but Alicia just didn’t feel comfortable talking about these things within the walls of her professional sanctuary. It was bad enough that every time she walked in Will’s office, she had the memory of them being… not so professional.

Kalinda showed no concern or surprise (what did she expect? Kalinda wasn’t the concerned or surprised type), but accepted agreeably enough.

Now Alicia had to follow through.

It was flurrying when they made their way outside and to the nearby park, and there was a biting coldness in the air that kept most people inside their cozy offices, and the park far emptier than usual, save a few, intrepid, bundled-up joggers. Alicia’s preoccupation kept her from feeling the full impact of the chill, but she still tugged her coat more tightly around her body in an unconscious motion. Although she had prepared what she was going to say, she found the words didn’t want to emerge into the frigid air, and they both walked silently for almost fifteen minutes, gloved hands buried in their pockets while they nearly circumnavigated the park.

“So what made you change your mind?” Kalinda finally broke the silence to ask her, reading Alicia like the open book she always felt herself to be in the young investigator’s presence.

There was no point in deflecting or postponing anymore – if she did, the whole purpose of this walk would be lost to her cowardice -- so Alicia didn’t bother trying. She just began explaining on a sigh.

“See… I like you,” she began hesitantly. “The past few years have changed a lot of things, and probably most important is that they’ve dramatically decreased the number of people I like. And trust. And I don’t want to lose one of the only people I’ve got left, on some… confused post-divorce rebound thing.”

Kalinda glanced over and raised her eyebrow as they walked. “You think spending more time with me is going to make you like me less?”

“No. I think spending more time with you is going to make you get sick of my neuroticism, and like me less.” And that was the God’s-honest truth.

That declaration didn’t get a response aside from a wry upward glance. Kalinda never felt a duty toward reassurances, when they weren’t specifically asked for.

“It’s just…” Alicia sighed and tipped her head back, feeling the snowflakes cold and sharp against her face. “I’m almost 40 years old, Kalinda. I’m a little far along to be experimenting. And I don’t want to be using you and… this… as a way to figure myself out.”

“Well. If you can’t say the word describing what we’re doing, it’s probably a good indication that you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Her agreement was an out, and it felt simultaneously relieving and… hurtful. Just a bit. Try to convince me. Just a little bit harder.

“We can still be friends, right?” she begged. She wasn’t even completely sure Kalinda ever considered her a friend to begin with; she revealed so little. But sadly enough, despite the fact she barely scratched Kalinda’s surface – she was still Alicia's best friend right now. The only person with whom she ever really shared her feelings about Peter, Will, her kids, her life. The thought of that being taken away made her feel anxious, if not slightly panicked.

Kalinda chuckled lightly. “Nothing’s changed, Alicia. Don’t worry.”

They were almost back at the gate, at the entrance of the park. The snow was falling a little heavier, sticking to the grass and the trees now, and the traffic on the path was sparse – a few people hurrying back to work after lingering too long on their lunch breaks.

Alicia put her gloved hand on Kalinda’s arm, stopping her in her tracks. “Thank you,” she told her, with fierce gratefulness. “For understanding.”

Kalinda angled toward her, in her tall boots still shorter than Alicia; flurries caught in her hair and in those preternaturally long and dark eyelashes. “Hey. Don’t mention it.”

A stronger gust of wind blew, and the snow swirled around them; big, thick flakes that looked far too heavy to be twirling so merrily in the air. One of them landed and clung to Kalinda’s full, berry-stained lower lip. Alicia found herself preoccupied with it, watching as it became smaller, smaller, and finally melted, leaving behind a hint of dampness that turned her mouth even glossier than before.

Time seemed to slow to a crawl. For the first time since Kalinda threw her off balance by asking her out for coffee (just coffee), all conscious thought left her.

And then, suddenly, Alicia Cavanaugh Florrick did something unplanned, and very, very reckless.

She kissed Kalinda Sharma.

It wasn’t the best first kiss she’d ever had. It was quick – too quick – and had not a week or an hour or even a minute of anticipatory excitement leading to it. But it was soft, and thrilling in its unexpectedness, and full of a potential that Alicia couldn’t begin to comprehend.

When she pulled back, she was amazed to see that, maybe for the first time in the history of their friendship, she had managed to surprise Kalinda – although not nearly as much as she just surprised herself.

“…Really?” Kalinda asked, incredulous.

“I guess…?” The words were uncertain, questioning, but before she could decide on any others, Kalinda threw a surreptitious glance to the right, then the left – then grabbed the lapels of Alicia’s navy coat and pulled her into a far more forceful kiss.

This one was longer, but not nearly long enough. There was a dizzying contrast between what were certainly the softest lips she has ever kissed, and the most masterful style of kissing she’d ever experienced. Kalinda’s velvet-soft tongue found all the right spots inside Alicia’s mouth that set her quivering with pleasure, and for a few helpless seconds she had no choice but to trust that Kalinda had made sure no colleagues or cameras were capturing the moment, because Alicia certainly couldn’t be the one to pull away this time.

When they did separate, it took some time for everything to come back into focus; the first things she noticed were a strand of hair that had escaped Kalinda’s always-perfect up-do, and the fact that her lipstick was barely smudged. A thought floated lazily past, that she should ask Kalinda sometime what brand she used, and later in the day it would strike her as humorous, that this was the detail she’d found important, after doing what she’d just done.

Kalinda’s head tilted; her face was mischievous now, warm breath visible in the cold air. “So you were saying how you’re too old to experiment?”

Alicia guessed that, ready or not, what came next was dating.