Show: The Guardian

Title: Family (tentative title)

Disclaimer: "The Guardian" and all of its characters belongs to those guys over at CBS that wear three-pieced suits and can afford to hire lawyers. I do own the character of Amelia Sachs-Fallin, however. No profit is being made from this fanfic.

Pairing: Nicholas Fallin/OC

Summary: This is the story of an affair between Nicholas and a client, who also happens to be the wife of his cousin Freddie Fallin. Amelia Sachs- Fallin comes to Pittsburgh from New York seeking a divorce from her husband of sixteen years on realizing he is cheating on her with another woman. On meeting, the sparks start to fly between Nicholas and the woman he has had a crush on since he was fifteen. Things become complicated as Amelia's degenerative disorder is progressing rapidly and she is dying way ahead of schedule.

*~*~*~*~*~*

It was one thirty in the afternoon, most of the associates had returned from their one-hour lunches at the upscale sandwich bars and bistros that dotted downtown Pittsburgh's business district, and Fallin and Associates was as usual a hub of activity.

Nicholas himself had just returned from the Courthouse, grabbing an obligatory sandwich on the way, but his distaste with the latest case he shouldered from his community service at Children's Legal Services of America, left a vile taste in his mouth. He had sat through the legal steam- rolling of a sixteen-year-old former crack baby, who would have her child taken away from her by the system under grounds that as a child herself, her behaviour has shown she would be an unfit parent to her unborn child and, although her foster parents had offered to take in both the girl and the baby, she was to turn her baby over to Social Services directly after birth.

He had sat and watched as the young girl bawled in her foster mother's arms, unable to do anything - the case was a foregone conclusion. The least he could try to do was arrange for an open adoption, or to at least work along with the girl's foster parents to apply for full adoption of the girl.

Nicholas sighed - sometimes he hated his life, particularly this job. He only had a total of 65 hours of community service left, but, despite the circumstances under which he had started work there, he had a gut feeling that after his obligation was up, he would continue to work at the cash- strapped law office. In the few short months he had been there, his eyes had been opened up to the harsh reality that some children had to go through today. As a lawyer he had already become jaded by the evil and wrong doing that some people could do. But he was a corporate lawyer - he represented slick thieves in three-pieced suits, who he could overcharge without batting an eyelid, not grubby schoolchildren who didn't have two pennies of their own to rub together.

Nicholas smirked ruefully - he actually liked the grubby schoolchildren better than their green-backed loaded counterparts. He shouldered his way off the elevator along with three other late returning associates, and headed toward his office.

"Nicholas," Annette, his receptionist called out.

"Yes," he paused at the door, hand on the handle.

"You have a visitor -"

Nick didn't wait for her to continue, he simply pushed open the door and shut it heavily behind him. "I'm sorry to be late -" he started as he walked quickly toward his desk, but trailed off as his visitor turned to face him.

The woman sitting before his desk smiled softly as she took stock of his reaction. "Hello, Nick," she said still smiling.

Nick's eyes widened as he gazed at the still beautiful face of Amelia Sachs- Fallin - cousin Freddie's wife. "Amelia." he finally managed, resuming his walk to his desk. "What are you doing -"

"In Pittsburgh?" she finished for him, turning to face him as he stood by his desk.

"Yes. Isn't school in session?"

"Can't I come to visit my family?" she asked cheekily, blatantly sidestepping his other question.

Nick chuckled, "Freddie's family, Amelia, if you can call it that. You're an angel."

Amelia shared his laugh. "Still a charmer are you, Nick? All you Fallin men are the same."

The way she said that caused Nick's chuckle to die in his throat and he shrewdly took stock of the woman sitting before him. At forty-two years old, Amelia looked like a woman at least ten years younger, her trim figure clothed elegantly in a crisp mint-green pantsuit that accentuated her long legs. She wore very little makeup but still managed to outshine any woman Nick knew.

Nick mounted her on a pedestal, subconsciously comparing every woman he met to her and, so far, no one had even come close.

She looked tired though, he noted. He could see light violet smudges under her brilliant emerald green eyes, and as she spoke, her voice had been huskier than usual. She must be sicker. His heart bled for the beautiful woman looking up at him.

Amelia looked away slightly discomfited by Nick's knowing glance. "Aren't you going to offer me something to drink, Nick?" she asked, chuckling again, breaking the ensuing silence. "I thought I taught you better than that."

Nick opened his mouth to accuse her of dodging the question, when a knock sounded at the door and Burton barged into the office.

"Nicholas I need you to -" he broke off as he recognized Nick's visitor. "Amelia!" he exclaimed.

"Burton," replied Amelia, accepting the fatherly kiss on her cheek from her husband's uncle.

"Well this is a surprise," he continued, coming to stand beside his son. "What are you doing-"

"In Pittsburgh?" she finished the question for the second time that day. "I was just getting around to telling Nick that when you came in."

Nick arched an eyebrow at that, knowing full well Amelia had had no intention of answering his question. "I came to see you two bachelors," she said, sitting back in her chair. "I haven't seen you two since Freddie and I came down for Memorial Day last year. I was beginning to think that you two had killed one another when I hadn't heard from either of you in months."

Burton chuckled. "Nah, you know us Fallins. If we'd killed each other, you would've heard about it, believe me."

Amelia laughed out right, her clear musical laughter bringing a reluctant smile to Nick's face.

"By God it's good to hear you laugh again girl," announced Burton, taking Amelia's smaller hand in his.

"It's great to have something like you two morons to laugh at," she replied, sticking her tongue out at Nick.

"I resent that comment," Nick shot back.

Burton laughed again. "There's nothing I would like better than to stay here and chat with my beautiful niece but I have a meeting with some clients of mine," he announced, straightening. "When are you leaving, dear?"

Amelia paused, considering the question. "Three days from now. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow."

"Great. Well, promise to have dinner with Nick and I before you leave."

"I will," she replied, kissing him on the cheek.

Burton headed to the door. As if suddenly remembering, he turned back to Amelia. "By the way, Amelia, how's Freddie?"

Amelia's face darkened imperceptibly. "He's fine," she replied neutrally.

Burton who hadn't caught the change in Amelia's visage continued, "Wonderful. Now, don't forget about dinner."

"I won't."

The door closed behind Burton, leaving Amelia and Nick alone.

In a move that he would never have dared when he was younger, Nick stepped right into her personal space and kneeled before her, turning her chair toward him, forcing her to look at him. "Quit hedging Amelia," he commanded gently. "We both know you're not in Pittsburgh to check up on me and my Dad or even for a damned Doctor's appointment. What are you really doing here?"

"I *am* here for a Doctor's appointment, Nicky," she replied, her temper starting to flare.

Nick's eyes narrowed at the use of the hated nickname Cousin Freddie had bestowed on him when he was a child. "Ok, I'll give you that. But we both know if you were just here for a Doctor's appointment, you would have called us up and invited us over for dinner the night before you left for New York again, not show up at the office. Quit beating around the bush, Amelia. What are you doing here?"

"Alright!" exclaimed Amelia softy. "Stop badgering me, Nick."

Nick nodded and stood up and away from her.

Amelia paused, gathering her thoughts. "I want a divorce," she announced.

For the second time that afternoon, Nick had been rendered speechless. "What? A divorce? From who? Freddie?"

Amelia rolled her eyes. "No, from Barney. Of course from Freddie. Who else have I been married to for the past sixteen years?"

Nicholas robotically moved to his chair and sat down heavily in it. "But why?" he finally asked.

Amelia looked away, choosing her words carefully. "He's having an affair," she announced, glancing at him to check his reaction.

Nick wasn't too surprised to hear this as possible grounds. Cousin Freddie had always been a ladies-man, and marriage hadn't been a deterrent in the slightest way. "You know this or you just assumed?"

Amelia shook her head roughly. "I know it," she replied, her voice filled with conviction.

"How?"

"I hired an investigator," she announced, smiling bitterly. "Best investment I ever made." She reached into her handbag and produced a small service envelope and tossed it across the desk. "Open it," she invited, indicating the envelope.

Nick reached for the envelope, his blue-eyed gaze riveted to the woman across the desk from him. He opened it, and produced a series of black and white photographs. Clearly captured was his cousin Frederick Fallin, slightly bald but as handsome as ever in the company of a beautiful light haired companion: leaving upscale restaurants; Bloomingdale's; Tiffany's; The Park Hotel; kissing in front a Starbucks.

"She's beautiful isn't she?" Amelia asked softly, after Nick still hadn't said a word in five silent minutes.

She was, thought Nick, but nowhere as near beautiful as Amelia. The blonde looked cosmetically enhanced: big bust, super small waist - the type of beauty that faded in time.

"Her name is Madeline Skinner," she continued, struggling to keep the hurt out of her voice. "She's twenty-six and works with him at the company. Apparently used to be a receptionist, now she's an 'executive assistant'." Amelia took in a deep shuddering breath.

"How long?" asked Nick softly.

Amelia shrugged. "God knows. Freddie hasn't been home in seven months, Nick. Seven months!" her voiced cracked, and she roughly wiped away the tears that sluiced down her cheek.

"It all started with the classic signs. He would miss dinner, then call and apologise, saying a meeting ran overdue, or he had to work late. Some nights he'd call and say he can't make it home, it's too late, he'll stay at the Company suite at the Plaza. But when I'd call there, he wouldn't even have checked in. Some nights he wouldn't even bother to call.

"I finally really caught on at the last executive dinner. Get this, his secretary. his fucking *secretary* looks at *me*, her boss's wife with pity in her eyes. I'm not stupid Nick, I knew something was up. So the next day, I used the Yellow Pages for a PI. The guy followed him for a week before he gave me back those. I've had them for two months. I didn't know what to do."

Nick tossed the photos away from him, and sat back in the chair, fingers perched under his chin. "Did you talk to Freddie?"

Amelia shook her head. "Nope. I spoke to him last night. He called me from the company office in Chicago, him acting like everything's all fine and dandy . the little prick still thinks he's still got the wool pulled over my eyes."

"Why are you showing me these, Amelia?"

Amelia sighed. "I want you to handle my divorce, Nick."

Speechless for the third time. "What?"

"I want you to handle my divorce," she repeated, the conviction evident in her tone.

"I'm a corporate lawyer, Amelia, not a family lawyer, you know that. Why would you come all the way to Pittsburgh when you have your own lawyers in New York?"

"I trust you, Nick."

That gave Nick pause. "And you don't trust Marty Harowitz?"

"Marty Harowitz is Freddie's lawyer, not mine. Just like Webster is Freddie's banker, and Arnold is Freddie's accountant."

"And *I'm* Freddie's cousin," he pointed out. "And my father helped *raise* Freddie."

"And you both know what a first-class asshole he is," Amelia inserted, hoping to lighten the mood.

"Don't make light of this, Amelia. I can't represent you."

"Why not, Nick?"

"It's a conflict of interest. He's my cousin."

"Exactly. He'll take you seriously."

Nick scoffed, "Oh, please Amelia. Freddie Fallin has never taken me seriously a day in his life. Besides, I'm *not* a divorce lawyer, I wouldn't know what to do. Why don't you just go back to New York and hire another lawyer besides Marty Harowitz. With those pictures it shouldn't be a hassle."

"I don't want another lawyer, Nick, I want you."

In another context, Nick would have rejoiced at her words, but he knew she had uttered them in innocence.

"I can't, Amelia." he trailed off at the imploring look she gave him.

"My doctor says my muscles are deteriorating a lot faster than they should be. At this rate I'll be in a wheelchair by this time next year. The year after that, if I live long enough, I won't even be able to move.

"I *don't* want to be married to Freddie then. He's already killing me enough as it is. He is going to break what little self-respect I have left if I stay with him. I want to die Amelia Sachs PhD., not Amelia Sachs- Fallin, wife of the incredible Wall-Street moneymaker.

"Do you understand me, Nick?" she continued, her eyes not leaving his. "I've never asked you for anything, but I'm asking you now. Would you handle this for me?"

Nick said nothing, evaluating all that she had just told him. He knew she hadn't brought up her illness to guilt-trip him, but to merely make him understand just how important it was that she be divorced from Freddie before she died. And she *would* die soon.

Amelia had been diagnosed with the muscular degenerative disorder of Myasthenia Gravis eight years ago. She and Freddie had been trying to conceive for years without luck, and they finally knew why. The disease had progressed at an alarmingly fast rate, and Amelia had been forced to start walking with a cane two years ago. Some days, she was so weak and tired that she couldn't even get out of bed without help. That had prompted her to resign from her lecturing position at Columbia because she was no help to her students anymore. She didn't have the energy to brush her own hair some days much less lecture to and grade papers for over two hundred students. She hadn't told Nick and Burton she's resigned yet either.

She quietly watched Nick as he pondered the situation. She didn't know what prompted her to ask Nick to handle her divorce - Burton would have been much more competent, but she wanted to get to know the new Nicholas Fallin, so much a man now than a boy. He had always been a kind person: perhaps a little quiet and detached at times, hard with his father, indifferent to others, but he'd always been good to her. Perhaps it was grounded in the fact that he had always carried a torch for her, but it was there nonetheless. She hoped he would do this for her, even if it was for that reason only.

"Ok," he finally replied.

"Ok?" she asked, just to be sure she heard him correctly.

"Fine, I'll do it."

Amelia smiled, her bright grin lighting the room. She released a breath she hadn't even realized she'd been holding. "Thank you," she said.

Nicholas nodded. "No problem."

"When can you get started?" she asked.

Nick shrugged. "I'm in Court tomorrow for most of the day. I should be through by five. You can pass back here then, I'll be in the office."

Amelia shook her head. "Why don't we just talk over dinner. I don't want your father knowing just yet."

"Why not? He's gonna be curious anyways. And he's bound to find out."

"I don't want him to tell Freddie I'm onto him."

Nick scoffed. "You know as well as I do that my father doesn't tell Freddie anything."

"Ok, I just don't want him to get too involved."

"Involved? Amelia, this is his firm and Freddie is his nephew. Of course he's gonna be involved."

"Fine, Nick, whatever. Just promise me that *you'll* be the one to handle this, not your father, not some associate, *you*."

"I promise."

Amelia nodded her head with renewed conviction. "Gosh, look at the time," she exclaimed, looking down at her watch. She grabbed her cane with ornate silver head, and slowly yet gracefully rose to her feet. In her heels, she looked Nick directly in the eye, without them, directly at the hallow in his throat. Recently, she had taken to wearing low-slung mules with everything, and so she could see the muscle ticking at his throat. "I'm going to go, now."

"Let me see you out," Nick offered, taking her arm in his.

"Thank you, Nick. Charmer," she teased, her green eyes sparkling.

Nick chuckled as he opened the door, and escorted her to the elevator, walking slowly, allowing for her laborious gait. On the way there, he noticed the numerous appreciative and curious glances in their direction.

Amelia noticed as well. "I see you still capture the ladies' attention, eh, Nick?" she teased, as they waited by the elevator.

"Nah, I think they're wondering who's that beautiful woman with me."

Amelia's clear, bell-like laughter rang through the lobby, causing the others to look over at them. The ding signaled the arrival of the elevator car. "Yup, Nick, you definitely still are a charmer." She stepped forward and brushed a soft kiss on his cheek before stepping onto the elevator, her green eyes sparkling at the boyish grin that spread across his face.

TBC.

A/N: Well, what did you think? R&R please, tell me if I should bother updating. Ciao!

Cara