Author's Note: I enjoy this show way too much, especially the relationship between Carrie & Al, which feels like a breath of fresh air in comparison to all those UST partner shows... Set post-season 1, vague spoilers for season 2 - my attempt to explain the change between the two seasons, especially in Carrie (which I didn't mind at all, btw).

It wasn't that things magically changed after Syracuse. Carrie still did not know who had murdered Rachel, and her relationship with Al did not suddenly revert to what it had been before she'd left.

Yes, she'd begun to finally make her way towards something akin to peace when she thought of that day in the forest and of Rachel's death. And if she'd suspected that Al would always be there for her when she needed him, ever since he'd suddenly re-appeared in her life, she now knew it, down to her very bones. She treasured the memories of the way he'd held her in that hotel room, when he'd shown her that he remembered almost as precisely as she did what it was like to make love to one another, and it seemed unavoidable that they colored how they interacted afterwards.

They never had "the talk", never discussed what it meant and how they'd go forward from this, which was what a part of Carrie had feared would happen. Their easy rapport with each other had never been completely gone, even when Al had still been with Elaine - but now it had grown into something more. It was as if they were two trees with already tangled roots whose branches were reaching out and beginning to entwine. And wasn't that a sappy mental image Carrie would never share with Al! It was enough to let him hold her when she needed comfort from the images in her head and to tease him mercilessly when he got too serious and needed a reality check.

So she followed him to New York and Major Crimes, which was not somewhere she'd ever particularly wanted to be, but at the same time it was refreshing to get a new start like this. Their new co-workers looked at them and saw Carrie-and-Al, without baggage or preconceptions. It gave them room to breathe and just be, whatever that was.

Carrie missed Nina, Roe, Mike and Tanya a lot, but they'd been there from the moment she'd come back, they couldn't help but see through the lense of the history they'd shared and witnessed. Joanne was different - she'd joined the team later and had always had her own way of looking at things anyways, smiling and keeping her opinion to herself. It was similar to the relief Carrie had felt when she pretended to be someone else - except now she felt free to be herself, no longer shackled to history. And she was pretty sure Al felt exactly the same.

At least that's how she explained it to herself when he appeared at her door after they'd closed their first case in New York, carrying take-out from her favorite pizza place, and they ended up making love on her kitchen counter. He didn't offer an explanation and she didn't ask for one, and it was light-hearted and fun, a celebration filled with giggles and laughter, completely unlike Syracuse, except for the fact that both of them still knew exactly how to touch the one another. They fell apart completely only to come together again afterwards, caresses turning gentle for a while, until Al dropped to his knees and made Carrie gasp out his name yet again.

But then, Al had always been able to play her body like an instrument. That chemistry had been what had attracted her right from the start, had enabled her to see through the masks of efficiency and seriousness he wore and to the core of the man she'd fallen in love with. It was quite possible she'd never completely fallen out of love with him, and, although they never talked or did anything official about it, neither had he. Carrie didn't know why they'd chosen the path they were on now, so different from the rather traditional one they'd followed when they'd first gotten together. Then, despite the supposed secrecy of their relationship, they'd dreamed of shared flats, weddings and children, even if that thought had scared Carrie shitless. Now there was no talk of the future, not a single mention of love or being a couple, but there were also no other people, no doubts about where they stood - Carrie-and-Al, fitting together like puzzle pieces. Carrie quite liked this.

Her fixation on Rachel's death had given way to treasuring Rachel's life, something that gave her more focus for work, made her a better cop. She knew she pushed the boundaries, sometimes into dangerous territory - and this was only possible because she knew that Al was there, having her back and making sure she didn't swim too far out and, if she did it anyway, never alone. It was what made them possible, straight-laced Al and wild-card Carrie, although no one who knew them even a little would believe it was that simple. It was obvious in the way Carrie could feel her smile go soft around the edges when she looked at him sometimes, and in Al's dirty grins when either one of them alluded to one their past right in front of their colleagues. They didn't need to see Al push Carrie against a banister, the city stretched out beneath them, didn't need to see her melt against him when he moved deep inside her or the way he cradled her against his chest when it was over. Those moments were for them alone, unspoken words warming the air between them even as the sweat cooled on their bodies. There was no plan, no schedule to when they found each other, instead there was simple certainty, and trust that, wherever they were headed, they were headed there together.

Letting go of his hand as they re-joined the world, Carrie bumped her shoulder against Al's and grinned up at him, saying something, anything, teasing and playful, to which he replied with mock-severity, his eyes warm and bright. Just like always.

Neither said the words. But then, they didn't need to.

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