Insight Part II (Conclusion)



Notes: I've used some 'social work' terminology in this one folks. Tried to explain as not to confuse or bog down. There is also a Wendy siting. Why? Because she's just so damned funny! See Part I for Disclaimers.

The two occupants looked from each other to the closed door. Standing behind her desk, Taylor was the first to speak. "Well, um, now that we've gotten that out of our system, what are your plans for today?"

Green eyes sparkled with mirth. "Well, I don't know. I could stay in here all day. Don't think many would notice that I was gone."

A smirk curled the right edge of the admin's mouth. "You are so bad when you want to be. Do you know that?"

"Uh-huh, I do, and there's nothing you can do about it." The blonde caseworker crossed one leg over the other and gave the woman across from her a saucy smile. "Anyways, getting back to office matters, I have some filing to update. Even though I'm not in the field, I still have old cases to check up on. Oh, I also wanted to get with you during lunch to discuss the presentation. We really need to get started on that since it is only a couple weeks away."

The brunette pulled out her chair and sat before responding. Could they really turn it on and off like this? 'No,' she thought to herself, feeling the heat just smoldering under the surface. 'I think the trick is to keep moving.' "Mmm, sounds like a plan to me. I brought the files that you left at my apartment the other day. I figured that they contained info you needed."

"Oh yeah, almost forgot about those. They're charts, articles and stats on teen pregnancy in Lake county from 1990 to 97. Some interesting stuff, but I'll show you that later. Barb was gonna help me collect some stuff, but with her being gone, I don't mind doing it myself. I do miss her though. It's kind of weird looking across to an empty desk that is usually teeming with energy." Cory peered into pale eyes for understanding, but instead the dark head lowered.

Taylor tried to choke down the moment of panic. How would the caseworker feel knowing that the woman she cared about alienated her best friend? Little Shelley made a tsking sound. No more secrets. Tell her now and deal with it. For the second time this morning, Taylor listened to LS. After all, look at what happened the first time. "Um."

Blonde brows shot up then drew together in confusion as small hands held a white knuckled grip on the chair arms in reaction to Taylor's panicked features. Something was wrong. "Taylor? Did something happen with Barb? God, is she okay? I haven't talked to her in a while. She didn't quit did she?! Cory inquired breathlessly.

Taylor put out her hands in a calming gesture. "Whoa, it's nothing like that. It's dealing with us."

Small shoulders hunched upward in question. "Huh? There really was no us until the other day. What do you mean?"

The admin scratched an ebony brow before answering as softly as possible. "C'mon Cory, she's your best friend. Can you honestly say that she wasn't aware of the tension between us?"

Cory bit her lip in consternation. 'She was there with us a lot of the time, and she heard me constantly complaining. God, in a way, it seemed like she was pushing us together. Always trying to get me to play nicey, but I wonder how she would react to know that I was actually seeing her?' Cory felt a sliver of fear eek up her spine. 'If she found out, surely she wouldn't tell? I mean, Barb would know it would mean my job.' Coming out of her reverie the caseworker reluctantly nodded her head. "Yeah, I see what you mean, but she doesn't know about us being together right now. I mean how could she. . ." Green eyes glanced upward to meet amused blue. "I'm babbling aren't I?" She got a smile in return. "I'm sorry what were you saying?"

Feeling that she should be closer, Taylor got up and sat in front and on top of her desk, putting her a couple of feet away from the blonde. The admin crossed her arms over her chest and made unflinching eye contact before she began. "Um, Barb sort of read me the riot act, and I probably deserved it. I called her Friday under the pretense to see how she was doing, when I actually wanted to see if she knew where you were. She sort of knew right away that something was wrong, and she knew that you had feelings for me. I could tell by something she said. Anyway, to cut it short, she told me something that I already knew. I had hurt you at a time when you didn't need anymore pain. Despite the tough act Cory, I can see how sensitive you are with certain things." Taylor leaned forward and used a finger to gently moved a stray lock off the blonde's forehead. "Barb knows that too, and she pretty much told me to stay away. Barb is very protective of you Cory, and I think if she finds out about us, she is going to have a huge problem with it. She's your best friend, so I'm leaving the decision up to you. Whatever you want to tell her is fine with me. We'll just deal with it."

The lone finger that had been tracing the blonde's forehead, moved down to caress a silky cheek. Cory grabbed the appendage and brought it to her lips. Smiling with her eyes, she kissed the tip of the elegant digit. Part of her was incredulous. The caseworker couldn't believe that Barb would go that far. Taylor almost made her sound threatening. Cory was indignant. 'Last time I looked, I could have sworn that I was an adult. I know that I'm younger and she's seen more, but Barb had no right to warn her off like that. After hearing this, I think that she needs to know. If Barb was a real friend, she would be able to see that I want to hang on to both the things I lo-,um, care about most.' The other part of her was happy. There seemed to be no more secrets between them. It was like a breath of fresh air. "Thank you for not keeping this from me. I'll take care of it and let you know what happens."

Blue eyes darkened with regret, remembering past misunderstandings. "I didn't want to keep anything else from you. We've hurt each other enough, and like I said, I'm behind you. You're going to tell her aren't you? I don't think Barb would say anything because it would mean our jobs, but any personal animosity we'll just have to deal with."

Cory's eyes widened in surprise. "How did. . ."

Taylor gave the blonde a slow smile that lit up her features by degrees. "Because, I know you."

Cory could feel the blush creep up from her chest. She stared deep into the pale blue eyes. ‘I could fall in love with her,’ the caseworker said to herself. "I was right earlier this morning. You are sweet," she reiterated softly.

The stare lengthened until Taylor looked away slightly before husking out, "Um, you’d better get to work before you find yourself against another piece of furniture."

Feeling a tingle all the way down to her toes, Cory simply replied, "Kay," she turned back around before exiting the door. "One more thing. I used your phone yesterday to call my parents. I had to let them know everything was alright. They really do want to meet you."

"That's no problem. We'll set up something soon."

Taylor stared at the abandoned chair for some time even after the blonde caseworker left. ’I used to have control of my body. I swear I did.’

Little Shelley cackled, You never had control of this one and you probably never will.

"Oh shut up. I’m glad the real Shelley isn’t such a smartass. I think I would have fired her with the first remark," the admin whispered, "I think that I’d rather have her for company right now." Taylor swiveled the chair to the right and found herself unlocking the adjoining door a few seconds later. ’Okay. Act natural. She doesn’t need to know that something’s going on.’

Shelley heard the click of the lock but continued to write as the admin let herself in. After a few seconds, the assistant put down her pen and looked over the rim of her glasses that were precariously perched on an aquiline nose. She waited patiently as the admin made herself comfortable leaning against the door.

"You forgot my tea," Taylor stated rather matter of factly.

With both hands already on the desk, Shelley put one on top of the other. "Mmm, well yes. The locked door sort of threw me." The older woman’s eyes cut to the corner of her desk. "I still have it here if you want it," she deadpanned.

Taylor looked from the woman behind the desk to the obviously tepid tea. She raised an eyebrow and chuckled. "No, I think I’ll pass."

"Good because you know that I wasn’t going to re-heat it."

The chuckle turned into an all out laugh. ’Maybe I was wrong about the smartass part.’ "No, I don’t suppose you would have Shelley." The admin sobered a minute later. "Listen, I came to apologize for Friday. I did not mean to treat you that way. You didn’t deserve it, and I’m sorry."

Shelley waved her hand in the air in dismissal. "Don’t worry about it. It just bothered me to see you in obvious distress, but seeing the both of you smiling this morning is apology enough. If things didn’t clear up by the weekend, I was going to have, for lack of a better word, butt in."

Taylor almost laughed again. ’You already do, my friend. More often than not.’ "Yeah, we just ended up doing a lot of talking and confessing over the weekend, and things worked out for the best. Cory’s an amazing woman, and I’m lucky to have her as a friend."

From over the rim of the glasses, Shelley stared at the leaning woman in silence for several long minutes. Taylor felt like squirming because somehow that woman was seeing more. She could just feel it. The assistant smiled inwardly, loving to see her always unflappable boss uncomfortable. ‘It’s nice to see them finally on solid friendly terms. There’s something in the air when those two are together. I wonder.’ "Yes, she is a great kid. One of the best here in my opinion. Her and Barb make quite a team. It’s good for you to be in on that., and good for this place with you being new."

Taylor mentally wiped her brow. "Well, um, I’m gonna go get some work done. Oh, do one thing for me. Call the counselor we’ve contracted and see if she can move up her arrival date. I don’t want people running around here antsy any longer than they have to." With that, the admin turned back into her office. ’Maybe this won’t be so hard after all. Yeah, yeah right, now all I have to do is learn to keep my hands to myself.’

Cory exhaled, disturbing wispy bangs. This time she bounced the erasure end of the Scooby pencil on her desk. ’Ray, old man, you were so wrong about the stimulant properties of coffee. You haven’t been stimulated until you’ve been kissed by the boss, and just one will keep me going for the rest of the day.’ The corners of the caseworker’s mouth turned up into a secret smirk, making her nose wrinkle and eyes sparkle. The giddy feeling that originated behind closed doors refused to go away, and for the first time in a long while, Cory knew what happy was. It bubbled in her veins as if it had every right to be there, making her want to shout, cry or even whimper about her state of being. This relationship, these feelings didn’t at all feel like the house of cards that it was. Nevertheless, the blonde felt the frailty of it, and not that far below the surface, she knew that with a well placed whispered rumor it could come tumbling down before her very eyes. Knowing all of this and despite it, Cory still wanted to share it with others. Green eyes glanced to the side toward the empty desk. Barb had been the blonde caseworker’s closest friend for so long that she immediately sprung to mind. For the first time today, her happiness was laden down with the possibility of sadness, suspecting that she could lose a friend at the same time she had gained something akin to love. Knowing it had to be done, Cory picked up the phone anyway. It rang three times before a voice that had made her laugh, cry and feel comfort crackled over the phone in salutation. With a bravado Cory didn’t feel she responded, "Hey stranger. Was just thinking about you."

"Kid! Is that you? Oh my God, I was gonna call you in a little while."

"Well, now see aren’t I a good friend since I saved you the trouble?"

Barb did something that she hadn’t done in a while--she laughed. "Kid, I thought we discussed this a long time ago. Your middle name is trouble."

Cory snorted. "Well, call me T for short. Tell me Barb how’s things? I haven’t heard from you in a while."

The older caseworker clucked her tongue. "Well, I’ve only been trying to call you all weekend! Got so tired of hearing your voice mail that I didn’t leave a message. God, I have so much to tell you. Taylor—"

Cory’s chest constricted. She was hoping for a reprieve of at least a few minutes. Not getting it from Barb, she decided to take it. "Ah, ah, ah, first things first. I asked how you were."

There was a slight pause then a whispered response, "The monsters are getting smaller, Kid. I’m getting there. I think all I needed was some rest."

"Good cause I know that we miss you here, especially me. It’s kind of lonely all the way in the back by myself. I even miss those ridiculous faces you make."

Barb chuckled. "So how have you been, Kid?"

Cory sucked in a breath. "Oh me? I’m doing great. I think that I’m about ready to return to the field. I sort of miss the excitement of it all. Like you, I just needed a rest and someone to talk to."

"Mmm-hmm, so where did you run off to this weekend that made Taylor develop the audacity to call here?"

"Um, I just went home. Mom and Dad say 'hi' by the way—"

"Don’t you dare try to change the subject. She hurt you didn’t she?"

The blonde sighed. "It’s not what you think. Some things happened—"

"Don’t cover for that bitch, Cory. She all but admitted it. How could I have been so wrong about her? Listen, Kid, I know you care about her, but you need to stay away from her. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody so cold—"

Cory felt anger bubble and swell in her veins, pushing happiness aside for the time being. "Now wait a damn minute," she responded in a harsh whisper, "that’s what she shows people. It’s just a way to protect herself."

"Bullshit, Cory. I don’t know the details, but I know she hurt you bad enough to send you running. In my book, that’s not good. That’s not good at all." Barb was slow to hear the anger in the younger woman’s voice, so caught up in her own feelings.

"Is this a fishing expedition Barb? Do you want to know what she did? Huh? She was scared just like I was just like we both still are, so she tried to protect the both of us!"

A few miles away, Barb closed her eyes as realization dawned "You and her are together now aren’t you?" Her voice was toneless and devoid of emotion.

Trying to get her breathing under control, Cory finally answered, "I was tired of fighting it Barb. From the beginning, I felt something that I didn’t understand and it scared me. The more it grew the more I lashed out. I decided to be honest with myself, and we decided to be honest with each other. So, yes there is something there. Before you say it, I know I could lose my job and maybe even destroy my career, but is it so wrong for me to want something wonderful, something stable? Isn’t that what we try to do for other people? So what’s wrong with me having it too?"

The silence was deafening. Barb could hear as well as feel her stomach churning. Could she be a part of something that could destroy her best friend’s career? Could she be privy to and support a relationship that could cause the blonde more pain than good? If the admin had hurt her once, she could certainly do it again to save face, her own ass, and her own career. Barb ignored the nagging voice telling her that she didn’t really know the woman, and she ignored her gut that applauded Cory’s obvious happiness. Confusion sat in, so Barb decided to go with the alternative. For the time being, she said nothing.

Cory swallowed. As the seconds ticked by her apprehension grew. Unable to take it anymore, she asked, "Barb? Say something, please."

Finally, the confusion spoke for her. "I don’t know what to say." Without another word, she hung up the phone.

For several long seconds, Cory whispered her friend’s name into the phone, hoping the dial tone was just a ruse. Taking it away from her ear, the caseworker stared at the piece of equipment in pain and bewilderment. Loss made her chest ache and for a nanosecond her breath cease with the knowledge that her need to share may have just cost her a cherished friend. The anger from before had been circumvented by astonishment, but slowly, it crept back moving from limb to limb in a hot splash and red haze. She sat the phone in its cradle with an audible click. ’How could she call herself a friend of mine? Friends understand, love unconditionally, empathize, and sympathize. She pretty much just walked away. So, what we’ve had these past few years has been a lie.’

From far away, Cory heard a crack and looked down to see the Scooby- Doo pencil in splintered halves and resting in her palm. She vigorously slammed the remains of the pencil down on the desk, earning some curious and startled looks from those in the cubicles in front. The caseworker felt the house of cards shift a little, but through her anger, Cory still held on to the belief that Barb wouldn’t make her personal disdain a vocal one. Deep down, the blonde’s inner Jimminey whispered, "A relationship shouldn’t start with people against you, a good one anyway." She hushed it by gritting her teeth as the anger refused to dissipate. ’I can’t think about this right now. Work I need to work.

Cory moved the rolling chair backward, giving her room to get to the bottom drawer of her desk. She heaved out an array of files and slapped them on her desk with a loud, angry smack. Opening the first one, the blonde then turned to her computer. With shaking hands, Cory rubbed her eyes in hopes banishing the red from her view. It didn’t work and only served to make her surlier. Green eyes, dark with emotion, flew across the old pages and fast, furious fingers input the information. The blonde refused to think or feel but continued to move with machine like precision. The caseworker went from file to file until something began nagging in the back of her mind. She worked on, unable to grasp it until finally it hit her like an epiphany. What was in the old file wasn’t adding up to what was going into the computer. Astute eyes scanned the file once more from section to section: name, address, demographic info, psycho-social history, medical history, list of strengths, and the list of intervening problems. Cory did the same with the computer. Her eyes widened. "Aww, shit," the caseworker whispered. Why hadn’t she seen this earlier? With all that had happened the last few months, she had completely missed it. In the new computer program and intake forms, the section that listed a client strengths had been deleted.

The blonde’s nose wrinkled in disgust. How could a family social service agency profess to help people if they didn’t know what the clients strengths were? She hadn’t been in the profession long, but the caseworker knew enough to realize a dangerous practice when she saw one. Now, the intake data had more basis in psychology than in had in social work. Concentrating on a client’s deficits or problems could lead them to believe that nothing exemplary in their lives ever existed. Only their real or perceived issues reside. In essence, the intervening problems would create more obstacles setting the client back and keeping him or her in the system a lot longer. Her anger doubled. "What idiot would do this?! Damn administrators. Some stupid way to save money on paper when all they’re doing is costing themselves more money in the long run. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Maybe they really don’t care. If this was a social work agency, it should use social work theories and they just ditched a major one, the Strengths Perspective." While her anger was warranted, the caseworker couldn’t see that it was excessive. One emotion piled on top of the other and anger displaced from one person to another. In the end, Cory was bristling for a fight. She bit down the urge to rip the files to shreds and demolish the computer. The blonde decided to take it to the source or as close as she could get to it, the administrator. Grabbing a couple of the old files and the new intake forms, Cory swiveled in her chair and headed for the closed door.

Taylor clicked the mouse mindlessly, scanning and deleting one junk e-mail after another. She raised an eyebrow at a message from RAP, a social service group that holds workshops for caseworkers and social workers alike. In a few weeks they were giving a workshop in Atlantic City, New Jersey on dealing with multicultural society. One side of her mouth raised in a grin, her old stomping ground. It had been a while since she’d been back. It would be a welcomed change. Now came the decision of which caseworkers to take for the weekend. ’Maybe I’ll let them decide for themselves, but I bet Cory would like to go.’ Her insides warmed at the thought of the petite blonde. Inside of a few days her life had completely changed, and the admin knew she wouldn’t give the results of that change up for all the money, power, and respect in the world.

Her brow scrunched at the sound of a hard knock at the outside door. The door flew open before she even opened her mouth to admit the flushed face blonde caseworker that she was just thinking of. Taylor’s insides went from warm to hot. With a smile already forming on her face, the admin spoke, "He—y." She stopped mid-sentence able to at once see the look of disgust and anger on the usually jovial countenance. The next words out of the brunette’s mouth were a question, "Cory?"

The admin’s smile and voice almost broke through the haze of anger. Almost, but not quite. Feelings of hurt and betrayal clouded her vision both physically and emotionally. Usually full lips, thinned to lines as Cory stopped just short of the front of the large oak desk. A smack loud enough to make the admin jump reverberated through the room as the caseworker threw the files and collections of paper on top of the desk. With a voice dripping with sarcasm, Cory quipped, "If you’re through playing with your mail, get on FSIS (Family Service Intake System). I’m dying to show you something."

Eyes that were wide a second ago narrowed to blue slits. Something was very wrong here. ’If I didn’t know better, I would think that I’m talking to the Cory I first met.’ In view of their new relationship, Taylor tried her best to keep the walls from raising and the command mask forming, but the other woman’s tone of voice and demeanor made it hard. Part of her yelled, "Hide!!" But, Little Shelley whispered, Wait and see what she has to say. Trust her and read between the lines. Learning a valuable lesson a few days ago, Taylor did the wise thing and listen to her conscience. She swirled the chair back around, hit a few keys and got into the agency intake system. Trying not to sound reserved, the admin asked, "What is it Cory?"

Cory smiled and let out a bark of cryptic laughter. "What is it?! Look! You tell me! What is this crap?!"

Taylor felt her stomach drop. ’Oh God, here we go again.’

In a full fledge tirade now, Cory went on, "Tell me something Taylor? Isn’t this a social service agency geared to help families in the local community?" She didn’t wait for an answer. "Isn’t this place based on a social work background, using its theories and ethics?" Her voice raised an octave. "Then why the hell have you and your old cronies opted to use a psychological approach?"

Taylor looked on in confusion.

The caseworker picked up the files. "Look at it this." She shoved the old files in the admin’s face. "Now, look at your computer."

The bewildered looked stayed on Taylor’s face.

"Here, I’ll make it easy for you. We all know that administrators aren’t strong on theory."

Taylor began to feel the slow burn of anger as the blonde’s speech went on. Just hold on.

Walking around the desk, Cory pointed a finger at the section in the files then pointed at the missing section on the computer. "You see? In my opinion you can’t call this a social work agency if you don’t follow the Strength’s Perspective. Do you see how there used to be a listing for biological, social, environmental, and psychological strengths above the issues the client wanted to tackle? It was there for a reason and you all took it away. They balanced each other! The client knew that just because he or she had problems didn’t mean they were bad people. With this they knew that they were strong to survive this long with their own resources! Don’t you understand? Wouldn’t it make you feel like shit if someone was constantly tearing you down and telling you what was wrong?"

The irony of the statement was not lost on the admin.

"Well, that’s what we’ve been doing since you got here. I feel like an idiot because I didn’t notice earlier!" Cory paused. Small hands were clenched at her side, and her breath came in shallow bursts. "Don’t you have something to say?"

As calmly as she could, Taylor began to reply. She sat aside the pain at the blonde’s treatment to speak as the administrator. "Yes, I do. I was just waiting until I could get more than one word in. First, you’re going to lower your voice and stop speaking to me like a child. Second, you’re going to go sit in that chair," Taylor pointed the chair in front of her desk, "and we are going to talk like civilized people and professionals." The admin waited while Cory glared at her then finally sat down. "Lastly, don’t you ever assume that I make all the decisions. I answer to the Board and only have the power of suggestion and persuasion. If they don’t want to see something, then they won’t."

Taylor peered at the caseworker and found green eyes staring back crackling with fire. Blue began to darken with their own blaze. "Now, to answer to the charges against me." She paused as fire smoldered. "This is a social service agency, and yes, we help families in the community solve their problems. That is the operative word here, problems. We identify what they are, meaning both the caseworker and the client, together. As a team, a plan is formed to look into these issues."

Cory’s eyes widened in surprise.

A dark brow shot up. "Some of us do know theory, Donovan. Furthermore, I do not think it’s necessary to list strengths. Do you know why Donovan? Because it’s my opinion that you, as the caseworker, are supposed to know these things. They don’t have to be listed on a piece of paper. They should be up here," Taylor raised a finger to her head, "and you should know the client well enough to know them by hard. We have enough caseworkers here and enough other agencies to take up the slack that the caseloads here are relatively small compared to most."

Taylor leaned back in her chair coming to the end of her own soliloquy. "So, tell me Donovan, where is the problem again?"

Cory felt the wind deflate from her sails. The blonde blinked, looked down at her hands, then up at the admin before blinking again. This was what she was upset over right? Right? The caseworker swallowed when no one answered. At last, she was able to think again and humiliation sat in as Cory realized that Freud was good for something. If it had been another time, she would have laughed at the irony. Her anger directed toward Barb was displaced and angled toward the next best person, her boss and now partner. If Barb had been there and things were like before, Cory would be showing her a new look, ‘the egg on face’. ’Okay, I was wrong and she’s right for once. I’m big enough to admit that. The trick is how do I do it to make it seem like I’m not too much the blame.’ Cory snorted inwardly before becoming serious again. ’I’ve made a mess of things. Could have ruined our relationship. Hell, I’ve already destroyed one. Barb, I don’t understand. What is the big deal here? You’re willing to end our friendship because you don’t like my taste in women. Somebody help me to understand?! Cory pushed a shaky hand through her hair, and she could feel impending tears prickle her eyes. She glanced upward to see patience and understanding shining in the pale blue looking back at her. Tearing her eyes away, the blonde apologized in a choked voice. "I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I—" She sniffed trying to bring the now falling tears back.

Taylor felt the administrator’s mask tumble as the one of girlfriend took precedence. Getting out of the chair, the admin walked around to the front of the desk and squatted on her knees in front of the blonde. She looked at the small hands wringing in the owner’s lap and grabbed one, placing a gentle kiss in the center before encompassing it in her own larger hand. Using a thumb, Taylor wiped at the tears and murmured, "Why don’t you tell me what’s really bothering you?"

Cory sobbed, and then the words fell from her lips. Taylor listened until the very end.

"I just don’t know what to do about it Taylor. She’s been my best friend for a while now."

The admin squeezed the hand in her grasp. "Okay, let’s think about this. You two have been friends for three years. It’s only logical to think that Barb would want to protect you. I hurt you, and she doesn’t know me like you do Cory. In her mind, I will do it again and again while we both know that I’ll try my best not to. That’s all she’s seeing right now. Talk to her some more, but don’t crowd her. Given some time, I think she’ll come around. She may not ever like me, but as your friend, she’ll respect your choice. I’ve been around you two enough to know a real friendship when I see one. Trust me on this one. Just be patient."

Cory sucked in a shaky breath. "You really think so?"

Taylor gave her a small smile. "Trust me."

Cory gave the admin a watery grin back. "Kay. You’ll probably have to tell me this a few more times, but okay." Green eyes took in the kneeling form holding her hand, and something stirred in her chest. A weird sense of déjà vu made the moment and the relationship seem so powerful and right. Her smile became a full one. "Um, are we still on for lunch?"

Taylor chuckled. "Of course, I wouldn’t miss that or you for anything in the world."

A comfortable silence lapsed between them as their gaze refused to waver.

"Uh, I’d better let you get back to work. I need to finish updating those files anyway." Cory made a move to get up, but the admin stopped her with a tug on her hand.

"Wait, I don’t get a good-bye kiss?" The brunette smirked at the blonde’s obvious blush.

"Huh?" Cory asked flustered. "I thought we did that this morning?"

Taylor raised to her full height, and the caseworker soaked in her body heat as the admin moved closer. "Um, d-did . . .I-I think the door is unlocked," the blonde stammered as their bodies almost touched.

"I don’t care." Taylor responded as her head descended. Lips met gently, moistly in a kiss meant for comfort. Cory sighed against the brunette’s lips before burying her face into a fragrant neck. "Thank you," she mumbled.


The admin reluctantly let her go. Gathering the files and papers, she gave them back to the blonde. Cory turned back as she got to the door only to find the older woman purchased on the side of the desk, smiling. She grinned back then turned to go.

"Oh Cory, I almost forgot. You wanna go to Atlantic City in about two and a half weeks?"

Jade eyes widened, and her voice squeaked, "Uh, with you?"

"Calm down. Not like that. RAP is holding a workshop on dealing with multicultural society. Of course, I’m going. The agency will probably pay for three or four of the caseworkers to go. I figured that you would want to. I could show you the city. We won’t be stuck inside the whole time."

’Please say yes!’

Cory’s face brightened. "Sure! Can we see the ocean? I’ve never seen it, and I’m a little tired of dirty Lake Michigan."

The admin smothered a laugh, "We can even swim in it if you want."

The blonde resisted the urge to giggle. With a wave, she made her way out the door.

Within a few steps, Cory was sitting at her desk again. She looked up to see several heads turned her way along with hushed whispers. Even Ray was in on the little crowd around Annette’s desk. ’Oh great, they heard me. At least Shelley didn’t come bursting in. She probably wasn’t in her office anyway.’ The blonde rolled her eyes. When the crowd looked her way again, she gave them cryptic smile. No doubt that sent them into another round of whispers.

Taylor sat back down in her leather chair and leaned her elbows on the desk. Covering her face with her hands, the admin blew out a relieved breath. They had surely come a hair’s breath away from having their first full out fight since admitting their feelings for each other. Taylor had learned a lot during the past thirty minutes. Those defensive walls didn’t necessarily have to go up, and she may be able to pull off the duality of boss/partner. One should only come out when she is needed. Either way it was easier said than done. One day down and a million more to go.

Chapter XXIX: Not Even Lunch is Simple. .

Cory glared down at her growling stomach then at the watch on her wrist. Before she knew it, a few hours had passed. The monster growled again, clutching at her insides and shaking them violently. "Damn, okay. I’m going!" She rubbed her tummy in an attempt to appease it. Knowing it wasn’t going to be enough, Cory put the Shaggy pencil behind her ear and got up to knock on the admin’s door. She heard a muffled, "Come in." Cory walked in to see Taylor pecking away at the computer keyboard. The brunette looked up and threw the caseworker a brief smile. "Hold on a minute. Just sending Shelley an e-mail about preparing the memo on the workshop. I didn’t get a chance to talk to her about it before she went to lunch."

The blonde flopped down in a nearby chair. "No problem. My stomach just let me know that it was lunch time, so I thought I’d come and see if you were hungry yet."

"Mmm yeah, I could eat. Almost. . .there done." Taylor turned in her chair, putting the blonde in her line of sight. "What did you have in mind?" The brunette smirked sexily.

’Ugh. You in a tub of Jell-O and some whip cream. God, that smile is gonna get me in trouble.’

"Uhm, well I thought we could do sandwiches since we’re going to be working. There’s a gourmet sandwich shop and a Subway a few blocks away."

"Sounds good. Don’t forget my pickle, and if you decide to go to Subway, can you bring me some of their peanut butter cookies?"

Cory chuckled. "What’s with you and peanut butter anyway? Please don’t tell me you want a PB&J sandwich!"

"Ack, no I’m a purist. No jelly goes on my sandwiches. It’s blasphemy, but I don’t know. I loved the stuff since I was little. Think I lived off it when my parent’s weren’t around. A good jar of chunky and the day’s worries filter away." Taylor leaned back in her chair and smacked her lips. "So, which place are you going to?"

"I think that I’ll hit the gourmet shop, but I’ll stop by and get your cookies since you asked nice." She was rewarded with a child-like grin. "You’re cute like that."

Taylor poked out a lip in a fake pout. "Just cute?"

Cory’s brow wrinkled in mock concentration. "Well, you’re usually beautiful but right now you’re down right cute. It’s up there with beautiful but separated about this much," she pinched her fingers together, "by spelling. You see. One starts with a ‘c’ the other with a ‘b’." She gave the admin a satisfied smirk.

Raising an infamous brow, Taylor paused before saying, "You know that if I had something to throw it would be headed for you right now?"

"Oooh, I’m scared," Cory retorted petulantly. "Now give me your order so I can get out of here."

A few minutes later, Cory found herself in a sea of almost empty cubicles. She walked by briskly only to be stopped by the sound of her name. The blonde turned back to see Annette’s saccharine sweet smile and Maggie’s wide-eyed stare. "Ahem, you know, Cory, I was wondering. How on earth do you keep your job?" The redhead quipped.

The blonde caseworker gave her co-workers a full fledged smile, which seemed to take them aback. Maggie glanced at her cronie, suddenly unsure. Through the smile, Cory answered, "Well, Annette, I’ll tell you, but only if you promise not to use the excuse yourself." She paused for dramatic effect. "I actually do some work here." The blonde purposely widened her eyes and stapled a surprised look on her features. "Now, if you’ll excuse me? I have something better to do."

’That should keep them occupied for a while.’ Without another word, Cory found her way out the building.

Almost twenty minutes later, Cory laid their bounty on a clean section of the large, oak desk. "Okay, ma’am. Here is your turkey and pepper jack cheese on rye with hot mustard, your pickles, drink, and cookies." The blonde unwrapped her own sandwich and took a bite. "Mmm, did you take out those folders I left at your place? I wanted to show you something."

Taylor bit into a hearty pickle. "Yeah, they’re right here." The admin tapped a file on the desk in front of her. The caseworker gestured with her hand for the file. "Uhm, do you mind if I move over there on your side? I wanted to show you some figures."

"The closer the better. Get over here."

The blonde pushed the chair over the carpet. Taking a seat, she opened the folder totally aware of the source of heat near her shoulder. Cory took a deep breath. ’Okay, I can do this without getting all hot and bothered. God, she smells good.’

"God, you smell good."

Cory was aware of the sudden cessation of movement. "Uhm, did I say that out loud?" She cut her eyes to her left to see the admin, raised eyebrows and all, staring at her.

"Unh-huh," was the brunette’s only reply. Curiosity got the best of her, Taylor leaned in further intensifying her presence.

The blonde released a bark of squeaky laughter, while she thought of an comeback. "I mean, your sandwich smells good. Yeah, that’s what I meant." Cory rolled her eyes mentally. Now, that sounded lame-ass even to my ears.

Taylor sat her pickle down on one of the many napkins and touched the blonde’s flushing cheek with fingertips. The resulting shiver made her want to do it again. The admin found herself wishing that she could bury her face in fragrant blonde hair. She settled for words instead. "Did anyone ever tell you how beautiful a woman you are, especially when you’re flustered?" Taylor chased a new invasion of red from the blonde’s neck to her cheek and around her ear. The shivers were more pronounced and followed by a gasp of breath.

Cory swallowed. Things had gone from sane to sensual in a few short minutes. Her head was spinning. "N-no, I don’t think so. God, I can’t think when you touch me. It’s so damned overwhelming."

Not saying a word, Taylor let her wandering fingers trace moist lips. Her insides tensed at the sound of a whimper. She added her own moan as her finger somehow found its way inside the warm, wet cavern of the blonde’s mouth. The admin closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against the blonde head as a hot tongue worked its way around the invading digit.

Cory wrapped both hands around the admin’s wrist, afraid of its abrupt departure. She sucked an licked the remnants of the pickle until she could taste skin and whimpered again at the sweet flavor. The caseworker dragged shallow breath in through her nose. With each encounter, it seemed to get hotter, more sensual, and more out of control between them. Cory began to think that she wouldn’t survive the next one.

Reluctantly, Taylor pulled her fingers away, but kept the contact with skin. They both paused in an effort to get harsh breathing under control. The petite blonde turned and green clashed with blue. The admin leaned again, touching foreheads. "I didn’t know that it would be this hard to keep my hands off you, Cory. This really isn’t the place or the time, especially when we have business to discuss."

"I know. I don’t know what happened---"

"Shh, I’m not blaming you. We just need to find a way to get this under control, at the office anyway."

Cory grasped a larger hand, linking it with her own. "What do you suggest?"

"I don’t know. We just need to try harder. Save up all this until the end of the day."

"Uhm, does that mean no more tension release in the morning? I really liked that," Cory commented in a sing-song voice.

Taylor chuckled ruefully. "We’ll see." She moved her head up and kissed the blonde’s forehead. "Now, let’s see if we can keep our mind on the presentation for the next thirty minutes."

The blonde exhaled audibly before turning back to the desk. Her hormones had calmed but the heat still simmered under the surface. Secretly, the younger woman liked the idea of saving it for later. It sort of gave new meaning to 'coming home.' She took a sip of soda before continuing. "Okay, remember that fight we had about the pregnancy prevention classes? I was telling you that Lake County was one of the leaders in teen pregnancy in this state? Well, I was right," the caseworker said smugly as she opened up the file.

"I wasn’t doubting your word, Cory. I was just saying that more than your word was needed."

"Well, we got it." She pointed to a chart. "See here? From 1990-97, the rate of teen pregnancy in the state went down as a whole, but for Lake county it was an up and down affair. Over those seven years, we were still the second highest to Marion county. Also, the pregnancy rate for girls under twenty went up while those under fifteen went down. Either way, there is still a big problem, especially in the minority community."

"Yeah, I see. Where did you get these stats?"

"Got them on-line from the Indiana Department of Health. There’s a lot more. When Donna Shalala made her little speech, she was half right. Teen pregnancy was down from state to state, but just because the stats say so, doesn't mean the problem isn't still going strong from county to county. I want to draw up a proposal for the kinds of groups we need. I’ll need your help with that concerning cost, manpower, and all that."

"No problem. You have some good stuff here. I just hope they listen." Taylor reached for her sandwich and took a healthy bite. She let out an ungraceful squeak as she reached for a napkin. That part of her sandwich found its way in the napkin. Cory patted her back in concern. "What’s wrong?"

Taylor fanned her mouth vehemently. "God, that is hot!" She wiped away sweat from her top lip and reached for the can of Coke. The admin took a long swig and jumped up when the cool liquid dribbled down her neck to her blouse. "Shit!"

Cory bit her lip to keep from laughing. ’This just isn’t our day is it?

"Calm down and let me help. Don’t wipe that! Dab it." They both dabbed furiously at the stain above the admin’s right breast.

Wendy hummed as she made her way through the almost empty office. She thought about calling first but knew a little surprise never hurt anyone, especially Taylor. She smiled at the redhead and brunette then mentally stuck out her tongue at the fake smiles she got in return. ‘Should have known that someone who gets red hair from a bottle would be fake.’ The natural redhead made her way to the back office, humming all the way. ‘About time those two got together. I though I was actually going to have to do work on that one. They didn’t have to call me so early yesterday morning though. I am the one on vacation here. It’s my last day, and I haven’t gotten to see any of Bumfuck. I’m beginning to think that I don’t mind that at all,’ she thought to herself. Wendy got to the closed door, and being who she is, she didn’t bother to knock. Opening the door, the accountant stood in the doorway with raised eyebrows and pursed lips. She cocked her head to the side and watched as Cory fondled Taylor’s breasts. ‘Oh God, what did I walk in on this time? And they don’t even know I’m here.’ To get their attention, Wendy closed the door with an audible click. Two sets of hands flew up as did two sets of startled eyes. Wendy smacked her lips. "Uhm, am I cock blocking here?"

Blue eyes closed to slits and green rolled in agitation. Somehow the both got out at the same time, "Wendy!"

"What?! Haven’t you two learned to lock the door?"

Taylor’s voice was low and sarcastic, "Actually we have, but the lesson will go better when you learn how to knock.!"

"Well, if you two could keep your hands to yourselves, we wouldn't have this problem," the redheaded accountant said with a smile. "Come on kiddies! No harm, no foul right? You know you guys can't stay mad at me. I'm too cute." Taylor growled in response while Cory sighed. They glanced at each other in a mutual eye roll.

The admin was the first to speak. "It wasn't what it looked like. I wasted some Coke on my blouse, and. . ."

Wendy peered up at the ceiling. "Unh-huh."

"Cory was helping me get it off. . ."

"Suuure she was."

Exasperated all over again, Taylor retorted through gritted teeth, "What the hell do you want anyway?"

Not the least bit hurt by her friend's tone of voice, Wendy answered, "I thought I would come hang with you ladies during lunch. You know supply the comic relief? You two are way too serious."

Feeling it was her turn to get words in, Cory added, "Wendy? Shut up and have a seat."

The redhead's ruby lips curled into a wide smile. "Now see Tay. I knew I liked her. She has huge balls."

Cory rolled her eyes Heavenward once more before she sat in the abandoned chair. Both Taylor and Wendy followed suit.

The accountant had decided that she was on a roll now, and the best thing to do was let it play out. "So, what have you two lovebirds been up to? Go back in the kitchen and consummate your relationship yet?"

Taylor took another bite of her pickle, shifted the weight in her hand, and decided if she threw it –it wouldn't hurt enough. Instead, she decided to play her game. "Not getting any Wendy?"

Cory popped a chip into her mouth and snickered. This was going to be interesting. Wendy seemed to always make things interesting.

"Oh, I get plenty. Back home I have-"

"No, no hon we need real names not what you named your inflatable boy toys," Taylor offered with gleeful malice and a smile.

Cory almost choked.

Wendy raised an elegant eyebrow in direct parody to her friend. She opened her mouth to retaliate but nothing came out. Flustered she tried again.

The two would be lovers glanced at each other and grinned.

Wendy crossed her legs and finally regained the ability to speak, "Well, damn I think you got me."

Cory winked at the admin before turning to the redhead, "Of course she did. Wanna play again?"

Wendy blinked and a bark of laughter escaped before she could call it back. "You two are perfect for each other. So, do I get a sandwich? And tell me, have you done the do yet?" She asked innocently.

Cory was about to shake her head no, when she caught Taylor's eye. The brunette winked. "Why don't you have some of my sandwich?"

It ended up being an entertaining lunch after all. Wendy left with a promise of two escorts to the Chicago airport the next afternoon, and Cory left the admin's office only to have gotten a small portion of the presentation discussed. Still, she left with a smile on her face when the brunette suggested they stay late to work on it.

Chapter XXX: Semi-Scandalous Behavior

Cory counted the seconds as the last caseworker left the office. She waited a full ten minutes to make sure no one would return. The blonde entered the office without knocking. All the while whispering to herself, "I can behave. I can behave." While a little imp whispered back, "You're alone. You don't have to." So, she didn't. Before the door closed all the way, Cory made a beeline for her smiling boss. Eyes met and the room crackled with electricity. The caseworker made her way around the desk, pulled the chair containing the admin away from the desk, and promptly sat in the startled woman's lap, wrapping her legs around a slim waist as far as the chair would allow. With her hands gripping the back of the head rest, Cory brought her face as close to her partner's as possible and whispered, "We're alone."

Taylor's heart hammered against her chest, and she swallowed in an attempt to alleviate the dryness in her throat. Her breathing caught and accelerated as the blonde wiggled her rather firm behind in an attempt to get comfortable. All this and more left the admin's mind a flutter. Words deserted her. She was only able to manage, "Uh-huh."

With the tip of a very pink tongue, Cory licked her lips in preparation. "Can I kiss you?" She asked huskily.


Snaking out her tongue, Cory flicked it across the brunette's dry lips, wetting them for her. Taylor's breath stopped completely and started back husky and shallow. At the second swipe of the moist member, the admin met it with her own. Simultaneous moans sounded as tongues tasted and circled each other with minds of their own. Taylor retreated and Cory chased, leaving them both breathless with a kiss that dominated, seduced, and teased. Cory increased her grip on the chair, making the leather creek, and arched as large hands roamed over the cotton at her back, leaving her skin scorching. The kiss broke only to allow breathing. The blonde moaned harshly as hands found purchase on her khaki encased behind. Taylor squeezed the flesh, and cried out herself at the end result, as a slow grind started. Lips met again and clung. Cory whispered into the brunette's open mouth, "Tell me to stop."

Before answering, Taylor took a firmer hold on fleshy globes. "We should. This isn't---"

They both groaned loudly at the ring of the phone. Two sets of eyes turned to stare at the cacophonous noise maker. Their gazes met again. Cory bit her lip. It was either giggle or cry. She chose to giggle. "It's an omen you know. Someone is trying to tell us no sex at the office."

The phone rang again.

Taylor glared at the laughing woman incredulously. "You think?"

"Uh-huh. Answer it."

The admin picked up the receiver and almost immediately paled. She shouted, "No!" and hung up. "Um, it was an omen."

"Wha—who was it?" The caseworker asked anxiously.

"Wendy wanted to know if she was cock blocking again."

After a pause of a brief second, laughter filled the room. Several long minutes later, some work actually got done on the presentation. Charts were picked out for overheads and some of the actual accompanying speech was put together.

Cory growled as she punched the pillow. She looked up at the clock as she tried to make herself comfortable for the umpteenth time.


The blonde was starting to hate the strange sense of deja vu. 'I should call and wake her up to. After all, this is her fault.'

Taylor cursed for the hundredth time in the past few hours. It was happening again. Sleep wasn't even teasing her, leaving her wide awake. "Dammit! That's it!" She kicked off the blankets and reached for the phone. This had to end. They needed to find some common ground. The brunette whispered the caseworker's name after the beep.

Cory picked up the phone after the first ring and didn't bother with conventional hellos. "You know this is your fault?"

Taylor couldn't stop the smirk from coming. "Uh-huh. Can I come over?"

There was a brief pause.

"Yeah, I'll leave the door open for you. Don't bother with the lights just come to bed."

The admin's smirk turned into a smile. "Okay, I'll be there in fifteen."

Feeling as though she needed to get the last word in, "Get that smile off your face and get over here."

Taylor chuckled, "Yes, ma'am."

The brunette unzipped the coat and laid it on what she figured to be the couch. She hadn't even bothered to put on clothes, throwing on a light jacket over her pajamas. With her eyes finally adjusted to the darkness, Taylor made her way to the bedroom.

Cory grinned in the darkness and turned on the bedside lamp before she scooched over to the other side.

The grin got bigger as the door creaked open.

The admin took in the cowlicks standing up all over the blonde's head. 'She's so damn cute.' "I thought you didn't want the light on?"

Shoulders hunched. "I wanted to see you."

Taylor climbed in and they laid facing each other.

"So, boss lady do you really think we can actually sleep in the same bed after all that happened today?"

The brunette tweaked the blonde's nose and yawned. "Yep, I want to be able to give you my full attention when it finally happens."

Cory yawned in return. "Mmm, I see your point. You wanna set the alarm?"

"Yeah, I got it."

A few minutes later a very drowsy admin found herself on her back with a lightly snoring caseworker sprawled on her chest. She smiled as sleep stole over her and thought maybe they should change that cliché, "Out of sight, out of mind," to "The closer you get. The better you feel."

Okay folks. I hope you enjoyed this one. It was a long time in coming. I for wish my office could be like that if my girlfriend was there. LOL, I hope all the teasers weren't too much for you guys. Drop me a line at Minerva

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