A/N: Sorry this took longer than the month I was expecting it would take. Getting back into the swing of writing this story took watching S18 -14: Burn Card while I was on vacation to jump start. The bad news is that this chapter is a little shorter than my usual fair at about 2500 words. The good news is that I'm in the middle of tweaking a second chapter and hope to post in the the next two or three weeks. As always, many thanks to Tripp3235 for her quick turnaround betas.
Disclaimer: Not mine. All Law and Order characters belong to Dick Wolf and NBC. I'm just playing with them.
Apartment of Consuela Rubirosa, Across from Morgan's Market, Saturday, February 20
Mike awakes the next morning to Connie's caresses and kisses. He responds in kind once the fog of sleep lifts. The bedroom is bathed in the glow of morning light, shining through Connie's bedroom curtains, so Mike can actually see Connie this time. Her expressions throughout are less pained than last night, for which Mike is relieved. Being able to see your partner in lovemaking helps and as no words are exchanged this time either, it is also a relief for Mike that Connie isn't crying at the end of it. This Connie makes Mike uneasy but he doesn't dare push.
When Mike gets up to go clean up, he says gently, "Why don't you stay in bed. It's only nine o'clock and I think we have time to lounge a little. I'll make us coffee and we can decide on breakfast then."
"Sure, Mike," says Connie still subdue. "Can you get the paper from the front door? They should have delivered mine by now." That is more words Connie said to him since she accepted his apology.
"Of course,"says Mike giving her a quick glance as he picks up his boxers from the floor. "I'll be right back."
After cleaning up and putting his t-shirt and boxers back on, Mike grabs the newspaper lying on Connie's welcome mat. Once Mike figures out how to work Connie's coffee machine, he brews a pot of coffee. As he waits, he leans on the kitchen counter and his thoughts wander. Proceed with caution. She's still mad at you, so follow her lead. You still have a lot of penance to do. After making their individual coffees, he brings them back to the bedroom with the newspaper under this arm.
When Mike returns to the bedroom, Connie is sitting cross-legged in bed.
"Here you go," says Mike as he hands Connie her coffee. "Coffee and newspaper."
"Thanks, Mike." Connie has a fleeting smile for him. This encourages Mike to start a conversation, their first since the apology.
"Anytime," says Mike as he gets back into bed and sits up against the pillows. "When do we need to leave for the birthday party?"
After taking a sip of the coffee, Connie puts her cup on the nightstand with a coaster and lays out the paper in front of her. "The family portion starts at three with a dinner at five because of all the kids. They are at the end of the 495 on Long Island, so we'll take my car. We should leave no later than quarter to two." Connie's voice is softer than normal, but at least she is talking to him again.
Looking at his coffee in front of him, Mike asks, "I thought you always went to Brooklyn for Christmas?"
"I do," says Connie as she takes a quick look back at him. "My parents live in Brooklyn, but my sister and brother-in-law wanted a mansion of a house, so they ended up just outside of Calverton. You'll see what I mean when we get there."
"What do you want to do for breakfast?" asks Mike as he returns her glance.
"I'm not quite hungry, yet," says Connie as her glance lingers a little before going back to the newspaper in front of her. "I think I'm still digesting our late dinner. Why don't we go pick up your bag at the office and then go for brunch?"
"Sure. Sounds like a plan," says Mike as he watches Connie to ascertain her current state of mind.
Conversation is stopped though the quiet between them is not uncomfortable and might be even considered companionable. Connie passes the first section of the newspaper to Mike after she is done. After about twenty minutes, Connie looks up from her newspaper, turns to Mike with a puzzled look and asks, "Didn't you have something scheduled for this morning?"
Mike puts down the section of the paper he is reading and says, "It was just a class I wanted to take at the gym. I think this is much more important than that."
Connie goes back to flipping through the paper. Mike picks up the sports section and watches her surreptitiously. Spring training has just started so there really isn't much in the paper keeping his interest. Eventually, his concern, laced with guilt, pushes Mike to put down the sports section and ask.
"Hmm?" asks Connie as she takes a sip of coffee.
"H-How do you want me to make amends to you?" asks Mike with the newspaper on his lap. "Not professionally, but personally?"
Connie glances back at him and says, "I think you're doing a fine job as is."
Mike's brows furrows and asks, "What do you mean?"
"You've been very attentive and caring since last night," says Connie with empty coffee cup in front of her. "I like it."
Mike raises an eyebrow and says, "That's it?"
"If that's what you want ..." Mike is incredulous but plans to give Connie what she wants.
Connie gives Mike a small smile and returns to reading the paper.
They go down to Connie's parking garage after washing up and getting ready. It is half past ten and Mike is back in his clothes from yesterday, while Connie is in a sweater, jeans, and a casual sweater carrying a gift bag and a card.
"Why don't you drive, Mike? I need to address the card." Connie gives Mike the keys.
"Sure." Taking the keys from Connie, Mike unlocks the car.
After getting out of the garage, they head out to Hogan Place to get Mike's stuff.
"Don't seal it. I have a gift card for him," says Mike as Connie is just signing her name on the birthday card.
"You really don't have to," says Connie, surprised.
Mike shrugs. "My grandmother drilled into me that it's impolite to visit someone empty-handed and I don't know enough about your family to get something for them. I'm sure your nephew wouldn't mind."
"I'm sure he won't." Connie finishes with the card and puts it unsealed into the gift bag.
As Mike pulls up to Hogan Place, he asks, "Would you mind sitting in the car while I run up?"
"That's fine," says Connie as she pulls the card out to write it out.
"Do you need anything from your desk?" asks Mike as he is about to open the car door.
"No, there's nothing urgent and I'm not up to working this weekend."
Mike nods. "I'll be right back."
Fifteen minutes later, Mike returns clean shaven and in more casual clothing. After he gets back into the driver's seat, he hands Connie a gift card to a chain toy store.
"Don't worry," says Mike. "It's only a $20 gift card."
"When did you have time to go get a gift card?" asks Connie, puzzled. "I didn't even know you knew where there was a store."
Looking in the rear view mirror to get back onto the road, Mike says,"I ordered it from the Internet after you invited me and had it delivered."
"It was really sweet of you to do that. I'm sure his eyes will light up when he understands what the card means." Connie smiles more broadly at Mike than she's done since yesterday morning. Mike smiles back.
"Where did you want to go for brunch?" asks Mike as he's gets back on the road.
"How about we try to find some place on the way?" suggests Connie.
"Sure. Which way?" asks Mike.
"We want to take the Williamsburg Bridge," says Connie as she briefly looks up at the direction they are heading.
Mike drives off in that direction.
They find a local diner that serves breakfast twenty-four hours a day off the Long Island Expressway. They had given the waitress their order, and she is just returning with their coffees. After the waitress leaves, Mike takes one of Connie's hand in both of his and says, "I love you, Connie, and I'm really sorry about what happened yesterday."
"You don't have to apologize again," says Connie after she takes a sip of coffee. "I know."
"I just felt it necessary to make sure," says Mike as he's looking at her hand in his. He looks up at Connie's face and continues, "I thought I was going to lose you last night. I don't ever want to feel so lost again."
Connie takes Mike's hands in hers and says, "I was terribly hurt and upset with you, but I still love you. You know your mother is right. You need someone to heed your recklessness. Surprises like that are not appreciated. I'm sure if I were to suggest that you were incompetent during cross, you would be incensed with me."
"What do you suggest I do? Sometimes these ideas just come as I'm doing the cross. It's not like I can warn you since I don't know that I'm going to say something beforehand."
"Maybe you could give me some sort of pre-arranged signal?" says Connie not exactly sure what she could suggest.
"I can come up with something." After seeing that Connie is not responding well to that, Mike adds, "I will come up with something."
Connie takes her hand out of Mike's hand to add a splash of milk into her coffee and takes another sip. Mike drinks a sip of his and says, "Can you tell me who I should be expecting to meet?"
"There's the birthday boy, Luis, who's four today," says Connie as she's looking at Mike. "My sister, Rosa, is his mother. Her husband is Nestor. They also have an older boy, Cruz, who is seven and two older girls, Cita, who is five and Reyna, who is nine. My parents and Nestor's parents will also be there. My brother, Al, his wife, Nina and their kids will be there. Also, I think some of Nestor's brothers and sisters and their families will be there."
"I thought you had two sisters and two brothers?" says Mike puzzled.
"My brother Carl and his family are in Florida this year and my other sister, Christina, lives in Miami. Still it will be a full house and more kids than you can count on your fingers." Connie sighs before saying, "Also, Spanish will be the language that the adults speak among themselves. I don't know if you speak it."
Mike shakes his head and says, "I know a few words here or there, but that's it."
"They will speak English to you but will likely have conversations in Spanish. I hope you don't mind."
"Maybe I will learn to pick it up over time," says Mike hopefully.
"Good luck with that," says Connie with a small chuckle. "They speak it at such a lightning speed that sometimes I have to ask them to repeat themselves. My Spanish is a little rusty since I don't use it often, but by the end of the night, I usually pick it up again. Don't be surprised if I accidentally ask you something in Spanish. Sometimes I forget to switch languages. It used to freak my college boyfriend out."
"Thanks for the warning. I'll be fine."
Their food arrive and conversation stops for a bit as they consume their food.
When she finishes over half her food and is just picking, Connie says, "Mike, a couple of other things. Be aware when my brother or brother-in-law offers you food. It's likely laced with the hottest hot sauce they can find. It's a bit of an initiation thing for them. They have done it to every boyfriend I've brought home." Connie rolls her eyes. "I know it's juvenile, but it's their way of showing that they want to give you a chance. Secondly, avoid any conversations regarding politics with my sister-in-law, Nina. Her family were and probably still are Shalvoy supporters and she would not be happy to find out you were involved in bringing him down."
"Don't worry, Connie. I will be on my best behavior. Scouts honor." Mike holds up the scout salute.
Connie smiles. "Were you ever really a scout?"
"Two summers when I was in Oregon," says Mike with a smile. "Tom was in it so I got to go, too. Even earned a couple of badges."
"I would have never guessed." Seeing that Mike was finished with his food, Connie asks, "Would you like the rest of this?"
"You're all done?" asks Mike.
Connie nods and they switch plates. They had gotten into the habit of Mike finishing Connie's food the last few times they had gone out. Mike takes this as a good sign that things are on the mend.
"What do your brothers and sisters do?" asks Mike after he swallows a bite of food.
"Well, you know Carl and Laura are research oncologists," says Connie. "They met in medical school. Rosa is a stay-at-home mom though before the kids came, she was a professor at a community college and Nestor is an executive at his family's business. Al is a Vice-President at a pharmaceutical company and Nina is an investment adviser who is currently on maternity leave as she just had a baby two months ago. Christina is an interior decorator."
"Your parents must be retired," says Mike.
"No," says Connie after she drinks some of her coffee. "My dad should have retired last year but just couldn't do it cold turkey. So, he just reduced his hours to three days a week. My mom still works at her flower shop, part time. She had hoped that she could pass it onto Christina, but then Christina moved to Miami, so I think she's looking to sell soon."
Just then, Mike finishes the remainder of Connie's breakfast and says, "Is there anything I shouldn't talk about with your parents? I know the Yankees are out."
Connie thinks a bit on it and says, "Well, you probably shouldn't mention that you're my boss. My parents, especially my dad, will frown upon it and might use it as a reason not to like you. We both work at the DA's office. I'm sure you know, but don't bring up that we're sleeping together. My parents are a bit old-fashioned Catholics and think that sex is something that should only occur in the sanctity of marriage." Connie rolls her eyes at this juncture. "Also, as the baby of the family and they can get protective of me. I guess the best advice is don't rock the boat."
"Don't rock the boat," says Mike after he finishes his coffee. "I can do that. Are you ready? We should get back on the road if we want to get to your sister's by three o'clock."
They pay quickly and are back on the road in under 15 minutes.
A/N2: Sorry this is just a bridging chapter, but it would have been too much for the chapter to also include Mike meeting Connie's family, plus then I wouldn't be posting now. So is Mike on safer ground now that the night and half the next day has passed since he apologized? How is Connie feeling about the whole thing? Please let me know what you think.