Disclaimer: Not mine


Fall was unbelievably smooth and anticlimactic. Carrie and Al had settled into their home and their life together with ease. Work was work; nothing had changed, except at the end of the day they went home together. If anything, work was even smoother because Al and Carrie were on the same page and practically finished each other's sentences by this point. From there, everything had changed, but in completely agreeable ways, to both of their surprise and delight.

Carrie found that her need to take risks was abated somehow now that she was no longer alone. She had thought that she would resent having him watching over her shoulder and constantly keeping her in line, but, to her surprise, she didn't feel that way at all. The few times she had crossed the line, in fact, the man had been right there with her egging her on. They took the risks together, and she knew he was there to have her back, should anything go wrong. It delighted her to no end that she seemed to bring out the wild side in Al Burns, and he definitely brought out the lighter, playful side of her that she wasn't always conscious existed at all. With him it did.

They went to several of his high-profile events, and she not only looked unbelievably drop-dead gorgeous on his arm, but she livened up those once-mind-numbingly boring events so much that he actually began looking forward to them. Their high-risk semi-public rendezvous at said events were just the icing on the cake. Wanting her constantly brought out the wicked side of him that no one else ever had, so much so that he had become the one to drag her off in the middle of dinner for a hookup more often than she was these days. Not that she was complaining. She was having a blast. They were co-conspirators once again, and neither one had never been happier.

They began to sift through Sam's boxes of files together, at home in the evenings, and had followed several leads that so far hadn't panned out. But Al made sure she knew they were in it together, and somehow that knowledge and the quiet, unswerving patience that he brought to everything tempered her obsession along with her thirst for answers. It slowly took a back burner to the other events of their lives, no longer the only thing she lived for, no longer her sole reason for getting up in the morning.

She still visited her mother regularly, sometimes alone and sometimes accompanied by Al. Alice had been overjoyed to hear that they were living together, and Carrie sometimes wished that her own memories were those of her mother. She didn't remember that they had ever been apart, and Carrie often wished that she didn't, either. Things were going so well that it was easy, for everyone but her, to believe that they had always been together, the way they would have if she hadn't let her own anxiety and obsession take over her life. She often thought that Al was far too forgiving, although she was grateful that he was. Her mind constantly reminded her of all the things she had said and done to hurt him, and she thought that if she were in his place there was no way she could have forgiven all that she had done. It was a good thing she wasn't. She would have missed out on so much.

She lay awake on Thanksgiving morning, loathe to move from her very comfortable position, wrapped as she was in his arms with his hard chest at her back. They had grown so close that she was always surprised that he knew her so well and loved her anyway. He would say he loved her because he knew her so well, but she still couldn't believe it; it was still easier to think that he loved her in spite of all that she was. She couldn't stand herself most of the time, but she hated the person she was with him much less than the person she was alone. He softened her sharp edges, she supposed, even as she usually wasn't even aware of it at all.

She had asked him if he wanted to go home for Thanksgiving, and he had looked at her askance. He hadn't been home for the holidays in years, and had no desire to go. He wanted to spend the day with her, and maybe go see her mom if she was up to it, and she was both surprised and not. He thought of her first in everything he did, and it really shouldn't surprise her at this point; that was Al. He was happy to be wherever she was. And she was pretty happy to be wherever he was as well.

So she probably shocked the both of them when she haltingly asked him what he thought of doing dinner at their place, as it was their first in the apartment, and they had a lot to be thankful for. He had done nothing to betray what she thought had to be utter amazement, just taken her hand in his and kissed her knuckles with a murmured, "whatever you want." She had to smile, thinking about it, because the man probably had a PhD. in handling her by now. He had it down to a science.

She smiled again when she felt him wake up behind her, his arms tightening around her and his hands beginning to roam and she felt his warm breath on the back of her neck as he began to drop soft kisses there. She didn't think she would ever get tired of waking up to him just like this. She turned her head back to kiss him. "Good morning." It always amazed her how happy he was to wake up with her, every single day.

"Mmm," he murmured against her skin. "Yes, it is."

They went to her mother's early, since they needed to be back to start the turkey for dinner, and Alice didn't mind in the least. She was particularly clear today, for her at least, as if the fact that Al was there brought her own daughter that much more clearly into the focus of her mind's eye, the way it often did. Carrie had ceased to be bothered by it, letting herself be thankful for once that her mother was there with her, as much as she could be, and they shared memories of Thanksgivings past as easily as if those memories weren't often just out of her grasp. Carrie had come prepared with the pictures of their new home together that her mother had asked for, just in case she happened to remember, and much to her surprise, Alice did. She was delighted that her daughter looked so happy with her longtime partner, as far as she knew, since she didn't recall them as ever being apart. She did ask Al when he was going to "finally" make an honest woman of her daughter, rather imperiously, Carrie thought with chagrin, to which Al only smiled mysteriously and brought the hand he held in his to his lips, saying only, "all in due time, Alice, all in due time."

Carrie glanced at him worriedly, hoping he wasn't going for some grand gesture she wasn't ready for, the thought of hurting him with her own residual fears not one she relished, but his answering smile calmed her somehow. How he knew her so well and could still stand to be around her she would never know.

They were back home with the turkey in the oven when Al turned to her with that smile that heated her blood. There were few locations in their apartment they hadn't made the most of at this point, having passed the six-month mark, and yet somehow the man always came up with something. God, she loved the way his mind worked.

In the end it was Carrie and Al, Roe, Nina and Joanne around the table, as the others had other plans. There was much laughter and discussion over the varied dishes everyone had contributed, and as she sat quietly while the conversation ebbed and flowed easily around her, Carrie thought that she was more comfortable in her own skin than she could ever remember being. She sat for so long trying to remember that Al turned to her unobtrusively, concerned enough to check on her even while he knew he was taking his life into his hands for doing so. It was still so hard to just sit back and wait for her to ask for help when she needed it, knowing that both of their definitions of that particular circumstance varied greatly.

"You okay?" he asked her, sliding a hand easily over her shoulder and behind her neck, taking in her answering smile with relief and pleasure. Even as he knew things wouldn't always be this good, wouldn't always be this calm, it didn't bother him in the least. These times made it worth it.


A/N: Okay, so I had this little Thanksgiving scene in mind, and I sat down to write it and all this other stuff popped out ahead of it! I guess I owed all of you since I haven't updated this in forever! Thanks for reading! R&R please!