Title: Of Ignorance And Bliss
Author: Lil
Feedback address: tarnishandtears@gmail.com
Date in Calendar: 5 December 2009
Fandom: Women's Murder Club / Law & Order: SVU
Pairing: Cindy Thomas / Alex Cabot
Rating: R
Word Count: 1696
Summary: Cindy's not entirely sure where she knows the new T.A. from, but she does know her from somewhere.
Spoilers: Post "Ghost" for Law & Order: SVU; pre-series for Women's Murder Club. Warnings: I played around with timelines a bit.

Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DW09

Disclaimer: "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," the characters and situations depicted are the property of Wolf Films, Universal Network Television, NBC, etc. They are borrowed without permission, but without the intent of infringement. This story is in no way affiliated with "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," Wolf Films, Universal Network Television, NBC, or any representatives of the actors.

"Women's Murder Club," the characters, and situations depicted are the property of 20th Century Fox Television, Rat TV, and ABC. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. This site is in no way affiliated with "Women's Murder Club," ABC, or any representatives of the actors.

Authorís Notes: This is the first in a series of loosely related stories taking place in the same universe. I'm calling it the Left My Heart series.

Beta: With thanks to Ann and Stephanie for the help, any mistakes remaining are because I'm stubborn and hard-headed.

Cindy's not entirely sure where she knows the new T.A. from, but she does know her from somewhere.

She's a slim, blue-eyed brunette, sable-brown hair pinned up out of the way and glasses just a little too big for her face. Her clothes are kind of bland, if a little baggy. She's either lost weight recently or she's shopping at thrift stores. She's got these classic high cheekbones and a pursed mouth that says she's just dying to comment whenever the prof says something stupid. She's not really wearing much makeup, just mascara and a clear lip gloss that makes Cindy wonder if it's flavored. Cindy's not sure what it is, but something about the woman is niggling at the back of her mind, trying to figure out how she seems so familiar.

That's the problem with an eidetic memory. It's not actually total recall. As she sits in the back of the lecture hall, taking absent-minded notes on intro to law and ethics, Cindy wonders if asking the pretty woman out for coffee will help jog her memory.

Her name is Caroline Warner, and that's not ringing any bells at all. At first, she looks startled, then amused when Cindy asks her for coffee. The let-down is gentle, some flimsy excuse about professionalism and not dating students that sounds completely made up, but it's the hint of a smile curling around the corners of a pink mouth that keeps Cindy from feeling completely shot down.

Well, if the lovely Caroline won't go with her for coffee, then Cindy's just going to have to bring the coffee to her; and that's what she does, carefully balancing books and an overflowing bag and two hot cups through the door of the lecture hall, picking her way up the stairs to deposit her belongings and re-tighten hair that's practically gone loose. She jams the pens back through her ginger hair and snags the coffee, narrowly avoiding a collision on her way back down the stairs. She presents a cup with a flourish and an impish grin, earning herself a helpless giggle and a grudging smile as Cindy digs in her pockets for packets of cream and sugar. They've got ten minutes before class, and Cindy fills it with easy chatter, talking about everything from the weather to the school football team's chances this season. Caroline looks a little shell-shocked, but Cindy's totally used to that reaction, it doesn't phase her. When Professor Wheeler walks into the room, Cindy pops up and scurries back to her seat, throwing a wink and a wave over her shoulder.

And so it goes. It's turned into a matter of principle at this point; Caroline's excuses range wildly from the flimsy ("I don't date girls shorter than me.") to the semi-serious ("I have to pick up my son."), and each one makes Cindy all the more determined to get that eventual yes. Even after she passes the class, Cindy finds a few minutes every day to go flirt with Caroline. Eventually, Caroline starts flirting back.

Cindy's calling that one a win.

For the record? Her son Tony looks nothing like her. Where Caroline's light, pretty/fair skin with a hint of roses beneath it and blue eyes the color of cornflowers; he's dark, all black hair and brown eyes and a darker, duskier colored skin. Not that it matters or anything; Cindy may be insatiably curious, but even she knows better than to ask about it when she runs into them at a local pizza parlor. Instead, she plops herself down next to Tony with a sunny smile and introduces herself. He speaks clearly, with just the barest hint of a Spanish accent, so Cindy asks him if she can practice her accent on him while she waits for her pizza to finish.

Tony glances at Caroline and asks Cindy if she's interested in his mother, prompting a brilliant flush and a horrified scolding. Delighted with his question, Cindy admits that, yes, she's trying to get a date, and asks if he has any tips for her. Brown eyes study her solemnly, and then he tells her what feels like the secret to the universe -- Caroline's favorite flower. With Tony's approval and unabashed encouragement, Caroline finally caves. Waiting for pizza turns into sharing it with them, the perfect first date as far as Cindy's concerned.

This relationship, what there is of it, is lighthearted and fun, the epitome of being friends with benefits. Cindy's the one that wanted that first date, but it's Caroline that extends the offer into her bed, and between the stress of classes and papers and phone calls home, it's good. It's really good.

Tony's pretty shy, but sly as hell once he starts to open up. He'll make the most random comments that have Caroline and Cindy cracking up, smiling in pleasure at the combined sound of their laughter, though his eyes are all for his mother. Cindy understands, Caroline's something else. She's quick to smile at the world around her; but when she's not aware of it, her focus turns inward and she loses her smile, the warmth in her eyes fades. She speaks only vaguely of her past, and though Cindy's dying to know, she won't pry. The few times she's tried, Caroline's shut down completely, and Cindy'll give anything to avoid that.

She figures it out seven months into their relationship, a year after that first cup of coffee.

It's a fluke, really. Cindy's doing comparative research on the difference between East Coast and West Coast journalists -- which is to say, she's trolling through old copies of The NY Times for fun, feet kicked up on the chair next to her -- when she comes across an article that has her sitting up in shock.

It's an older picture. Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot looks fierce and triumphant, striding down the steps of the courthouse in a suit that does crazy insane things for her figure. The hair is different; while Cindy knew she was a natural blonde, Caroline keeps her hair in wavy curls, where in the picture it's pin-straight. The glasses are the same, while the mouth is harder, a little more stern than Caroline's. The headline shouts about another win for the ADA, and Cindy notes the date and the journalist, and then puts in a long-distance call to the crime beat of the NY Times.

A little fast talking and some minor embellishment of her assignment, and Cindy's getting copies of the original coverage of Alex Cabot's 'death', and her subsequent return from witness protection for a sensational trial, as well as rumors of her disappearance into the night. The journalist hasn't heard of anything since, doesn't know what happened to Alex, but Cindy's got this shaky, jittery feeling in the pit of her stomach that says she knows all too well what's happened since then, to both witnesses.

Cindy sits in the library until well after dark, stunned as the enormity of everything finally hits her. What should she do? Should she say something? Would it make any difference at all? Does this change the person that she knows? Is everything a lie?

Well, no.

Maybe Cindy can better understand the times when Caroline grows distant, or the connection she and Tony seem to have, even though he's clearly adopted. Now her subsequent return from witness protection for a sensational trial, as well as rumors of her disappearance into the night. The journalist hasn't heard of anything since, doesn't know what happened to Alex, but Cindy's got this shaky, jittery feeling in the pit of her stomach that says she knows all too well what's happened since then, to both witnesses. Cindy knows how, and why, and everything makes sense, how quiet he is, how cautious Caroline is. And it won't do any good to say anything. What happens if she knows her cover is blown, and she has to leave?

Cindy loves being a reporter, it's always been her life's dream, but more than anything she appreciates knowing things, even if she can't tell anyone. It's enough that she knows this, even if she'll never breathe a word.

That night, she pours all of her caring and heartache for Alex into her kisses to Caroline, marveling at the strength required to live the life Alex has been handed. If her lovemaking that night is more reverent, more passionate, Caroline's certainly not complaining. Somewhere along the way, Cindy must have fallen in love with her, because her heart breaks quietly in the dark with the knowledge that eventually Caroline's going to leave her.

From that night forward, Cindy throws herself into every minute spent with the two of them, determined to enjoy it to the fullest, because sure enough, that day comes sooner than she's ready for.

Caroline and Tony meet her at the pizza place and they both look so shattered, fragile. There are what Cindy can only guess are federal agents standing just inside the doorway, waiting with hands in pockets and keeping an eye on the crowd. Cindy's heart leaps into her throat and she swallows against it, pulling Tony into a tight hug, even as Caroline opens and closes her mouth, at a loss for words.

Cindy just shakes her head. She swore when she found out that she would make this as painless as possible, so she tilts Antonio's face up to press a kiss to his forehead and then wraps her arms around the lost woman before her.

"I know, Alex," she murmurs into her ear. "Call me when you get settled."

Alex looks lost, confused even as Cindy presses a fleeting kiss to her lips and squeezes her hands one last time. "Don't make me track you down," Cindy mock-threatens, voice cracking through her smile, and then she turns and hurries from the building.

She's going to break down if she has to watch them leave, and she has a paper due in a week that she should really get started on.

Besides, she'll want to be by the phone. If - when - Alex calls, Cindy will be there to answer.