Ratings: Slash, f/f. Thatcher/Vecchio.
Summary: A little revisionist history. Post-COTW, Francesca gives Meg a ride to the airport.
Disclaimer: Everyone here belongs to Alliance.

Stare
by Sitnah
 

Meg had never been so glad to see Francesca Vecchio. Before the car even stopped in front of the Consulate, she was already dragging her suitcases down the steps. Francesca got out and opened the trunk for her, and together they jammed the bags in without exchanging a word. It wasn't until they were pulling into traffic again that Meg controlled her breathing enough to turn and say, "Thank you, Miss Vecchio. I appreciate your coming very much, especially on such short notice."

"Not a problem," Francesca said. She glanced to the side and flashed Meg a smile. "Don't worry, I'll get you there, if I die trying."

"I certainly hope it won't come to that," Meg said. "Though at this moment I can't say I would be very unhappy if a terrible accident were to befall Constable Turnbull."

Francesca laughed. "So where is he anyway? I can't believe he just left you stranded."

"I don't know. I don't think I want to know."

"Oh yeah? What could he be doing that you couldn't stand to hear about?"

"He's been talking politics again. It frightens me."

"Bet you miss Fraser, huh?"

Meg paused. "In a staff as small as the Consulate's, the departure of one member is naturally bound to make itself felt."

"Sure," Francesca agreed. Then she was turning, swerving, yelling -- "Look where you're going, asshole!" -- and they were on the Kennedy.

Meg sank back a little farther into her seat. She pulled her cell phone out of her coat pocket.

"Please say the flight number," the voice on the other end of the line intoned.

"One two four four," Meg said.

"Please say the flight number."

"One… two… four… four."

"Please say the flight number."

"One… two…"

"Gimme that," Francesca said. She held out her hand without looking and Meg reluctantly put the phone into it. "One two four four… Delayed twelve minutes. See, you'll be fine."

A grimace curled over Meg's face. "Idiotic system."

"It just can't understand your accent."

"I don't have an accent." Meg took the phone back from Francesca's warm hand and snapped it shut.

Francesca was smiling.

Outside the window, buildings passed by all too slowly.

"So, you heard from him lately?"

"From whom?"

"Fraser."

"No. I've had no word from him since I left him in Canada."

"Crazy, him and Ray, huh?"

Meg hesitated. "What do you mean?"

Francesca shot a glance at her. "Well, that adventure thing they're on. Welsh told me all about it. Ray asked him for leave, y'know."

"Yes," Meg conceded. "I believe Constable Fraser requested leave as well." Then she added, "It seems to be quite an ambitious undertaking."

"You think they'll find what they're looking for?"

"If boldness and stubbornness can accomplish it, I am sure he and Detective Ve -- Kowalski, will not be found lacking."

Francesca snorted.

"You take a great interest in Constable Fraser's proceedings," Meg observed after a moment.

"Yeah, well." Francesca spoke absently, her eyes on the road. "Keeps people off my back, y'know?"

"Off your back?"

"Yeah, you know. Since my divorce, my family and all, they all think I need to get hitched up again. Hard to change their minds. This way, it's 'Poor Frannie, no boyfriend, 'cause he ain't interested.'"

Meg was silenced.

Francesca turned to look at her. "I'd've thought you'd know all about that."

"I don't know what you mean."

Francesca looked at her a heartbeat longer, then shrugged. "Whatever."

Meg leaned down and pulled her handbag onto her lap. Passport, credit card, itinerary. She reached for her phone again but then thought better of it. The photograph in her passport was an old one, still showing her hair hanging loose on her shoulders. She fingered the blunt ends at the nape of her neck. Another trim was in order after her return. Driver's license. Canadian bills. American bills. She took a deep breath. "Miss Vecchio --"

"Frannie."

"Francesca -- I -- " And Meg stuck there.

"Yeah?" Francesca said gently. She was looking straight ahead.

Another breath. "I, ah, it's true that I did on one occasion pretend to a greater… intimacy… with Constable Fraser, than actually existed between us… in order to avoid the advances of a man, a superior officer, I -- I wasn't interested in. Although I can't imagine how that event could have become public knowledge. But that was a, an isolated incident."

"Never anyone else you needed to fend off?"

"Unfortunately, no," Meg couldn’t help admitting. "There were -- have been -- all too many. But I realized that it was unfair to Constable Fraser to involve him, so I learned to handle them more gracefully. Though --" she let out a harsh exhalation of laughter -- "even that was more graceful than what I did before."

"Before you came to Chicago?"

"Yes." Meg set her lips in a straight line.

"And they punished you by sending you here."

Meg caught her breath, but Francesca was already going on.

"It's okay, I know it sucks for you guys to be here." She took a hand off the wheel and gestured vaguely in the air. "I mean, I love Chicago, but for me it's home. I know you've been dying to get back to Toronto." She paused, but Meg couldn't answer. "I'm sorry if you didn't wanna bring it up. I just mean, you were so furious when you first got here, y'know? I knew there had to be something going on."

"But there wasn't!" Meg burst out. "He accused me -- simply because I refused him -- and I'm good at softball--" She stopped.

Francesca looked at her, looked away again. "So they sent you as far away as they could... And the next time it happened, you pulled Fraser in to prove 'em wrong."

Meg shrugged. Her fingers curled around her phone.

"But there was never really anything between you and him?"

"He was my subordinate."

"Well, yeah, there's that," Francesca acknowledged. "Still, there's something about him… I used to think, Fraser if anyone, y'know? So honest… and he is gorgeous… and probably a good father. 'Cause, I mean, kids would be nice, it's not that. I'd kind of like to have kids. I just, now, I don't wanna have to get married to have them."

An overpass arched above the car, too briefly for Meg to read the graffiti on it.

"I almost changed my mind one time -- I met this guy who seemed, well, just like him, except he was actually interested in me --" Francesca laughed. "-- and I dunno, I thought I'd give it a chance. I even went and tried to explain it to Fraser in case he was taking me seriously after all, and a lotta good that did… And I couldn't go through with it. I called it off. 'Cause I realized he wasn't just like him, after all. Fraser, he's just, he's something special, don't you think?"

"There was never a romantic relationship between us," Meg said from between gritted teeth.

Francesca looked a little startled. "What? Oh. No, I mean, 'course not. 'Cause I was gonna say, the thing about Fraser was, it felt so safe, y'know? Like, I could play it up as much as I needed, and he'd never call me on it. And everybody else would leave me alone. It was, it was nice."

A concrete embankment rose up next to the road, blocking Meg's view of the houses beyond.

After a while, Francesca said, "So, did you, uh, ever want kids?"

Meg's shoulders dropped. "Yes."

"Yeah?"

"Yes. So much so that…" She took a deep breath. "-- at one point I considered adoption. I even began looking into the application process."

"What happened?"

Meg shook her head. "Nothing came of it. I found the authorities were reluctant -- and naturally so -- to place an infant with any single parent, much less a foreign citizen."

"Wait, this was recently? Here?"

"Yes."

Francesca's voice softened. "I bet you'd be a good mother."

Meg glanced over, but Francesca said nothing more. After a moment, Meg leaned back against the headrest of her seat. Telephone wires swooped by in a skewed procession.

She wasn't sure how much time passed before Francesca's voice roused her again. "Hey, uh --"

"Yes?"

"O'Hare International, coming up."

"Thank you."

Meg held her breath at the speed with which they took the exit, but once off the expressway, they continued at a more moderate pace into the confines of the airport itself. Francesca maneuvered through the crowded lanes with surprising deftness, finally pulling to a halt in front of the international terminal. She turned the engine off but did not immediately remove the key from the ignition. Meg closed her handbag.

"So --" Now it was Francesca's turn to hesitate, to search for words. "How, uh, how long are you gonna be in Ottawa?"

"Just six days. Though if the discussions go well, I may --" Meg stopped. "I'll be returning on Friday."

"You gonna need a ride back? I could, I mean… I could pick you up." Francesca shifted closer.

"I couldn't think of troubling you again," Meg said quickly. "I'll contact Constable Turnbull and…" Francesca's hand was on her arm. "… and I'm sure with the, ah, the…"

"Meg?"

"Yes?"

"We could, uh, we could go for a late dinner, or something, if you want, when you get back. I mean, you'll be hungry, right? They never really feed you on airplanes, so…" She stopped under the weight of Meg's gaze. "What?"

"You're touching me," Meg pointed out.

"Yeah," Francesca agreed. She did not apologize.

Meg's knees were trembling. "Look, Francesca --"

"Frannie."

"-- I don't -- I can't…" Meg trailed off as Francesca leaned even closer.

"All's I'm saying is --"

Her face was very near.

"-- think about it, okay?"

Meg closed her eyes.

"Still think it's all about how we smell?" Francesca said when she pulled back.

"This could hardly be called love at first sight," Meg protested, over the churning of her stomach and the beating of her pulse.

Francesca laughed shakily. "C'mon," she said. "You'll miss your flight."

Meg glanced around as she got out of the car, but they didn't seem to have attracted any attention. Her heels clicked on the sidewalk as she walked to the back of the car.

When all Meg's bags were on the curb, Francesca slammed the trunk shut. "So," she said. Her hands were moving a little at her sides. "I'll, uh, see you Friday then?"

Francesca's lipstick was smudged. Meg looked away. "See you," she repeated.
 

On to Another Little Piece of My Heart / On to My Whole Entire Heart