DISCLAIMER: characters belong to Wolfe and Law and Order. Maddy belongs to me. I make nothing, zero, and zilch from this. This is just an amusement and practice making coherent sentences.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Merci beaucoup to betas, foolish heart and comma splice and also for the advice of tall girl at the inception of this story.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The taste of the bitter precinct coffee lingered on Olivia's tongue as she finished her report. Christmas was coming in a few weeks; and, she was just getting over Thanksgiving. Elliot and Kathy valiantly tried to include her and Olivia appreciated their efforts; but being with them didn't make her loneliness any easier. Their comfortable, intimate life only magnified her isolation. The simple fact remained. She was alone in this world, the center being the 16th precinct. This pitiful piece of real estate, her desk, with its meager decorations was her hub.
On that desk was an image of her and her mother smiling broadly, arm in arm. The fixture reminded her that these times did exist, a lifeboat in the midst of primordial muck. They were in the park after seeing a Renoir exhibit at the Met. It was a day full of color and light. A passing tourist offered to take their picture. With a blazing smile, Serena Benson pulled her daughter close and told her how much she loved her. She paraphrased some obscure poet emphasizing just how important it was to be surrounded by beauty in an ugly world. It was one of the handful of days that her mother was sober.
Olivia picked up her paperwork and filed it away. The moment of bliss was squashed by the intrusion of last week's floater, fished out of the Hudson. The holidays did tend to evoke visceral memories. Today's scene featured her mother cradling a bottle after a shouting match with that year's 'uncle'. The echo of a slammed door left a screaming silence behind. She could see a young girl cowering on a worn couch afraid to move. The creepy claymation cartoon flickered on the tele animating the tinsel on the anemic fir bought too late from the corner. It shivered and shed its needles like a labrador desperately waiting for a morsel of love to come from either left in the room. Through the aching silence, the baritone of Burl Ives proclaimed how jolly his soul was. It would be the third Christmas since her mother's death. She looked past the framed picture feeling disjointed and guilty. But, at least, it was familiar. It was like comfort food, hot, heavy, and ultimately very bad for you. She could never quite bear the responsibility of it, the holidays and all the joy one was supposed to have.
When did she suddenly get so old? All of a sudden, thirty-seven arrived and caught her still single with a barren apartment and a solitary life. She had become a fun house version of her mother without the child. Invariably, the movie of her life would start. She felt like Alex de Large in 'A Clockwork Orange' strapped in, eyes retracted, and forced to watch every horrible scene. Like a recurring nightmare, each failed relationship played in a loop. She could not find the one that would stay.
She couldn't keep blaming it on the job or her mother. She was responsible for who she attracted. She did not need a shrink to tell her that. She just would not make the leap out of her patterns. Getting a date was simple work. She was no dog. But when it got down to the brass tacks, it was the impulse to run screaming from the room that was the problem.
This year would be different. It had to change. She had to change. Time was running out on her. It was her new resolution to stop being a coward. At some point, she had to take some courage and responsibility. What came crashing down was that she didn't want to merely exist. She wanted to live. Elliot didn't bring the work home to Kathy; but having her and his kids kept him sane. He swore on it.
Her job certainly wasn't going to vanish. It was more than that. It was her vocation. Admittedly, it was not the easiest on a relationship but certainly not impossible. Lately, she just stopped trying. She was way too old to start cruising bars again; and, it was way too depressing anyway. As she recollected, fishing wasn't that great. There would be no more reporters and no one on the job either. She picked up a brochure under a stack of papers. Internet dating. She couldn't believe it had come to this.
"Hey Liv, you look like someone killed your dog."
Olivia blinked; there in front of her was a pair of very impractical heels. Gazing up at the impeccably dressed ADA, she hurriedly stuffed the sheet away and wondered if she was close enough to have read the print. The blonde commandeered Elliot's chair and slid over to Olivia's side.
"Are we going to hit the sale at Barney's tonight? I'd love your company and your invaluable gifting advice."
"You need me to carry your million packages."
Alex lowered her head slightly and looked playfully contrite.
"I pay well, dinner and drinks. Come on Liv, I get the feeling that you've been avoiding me lately. I'll get a complex."
"You aren't capable of having a complex. Cabots don't allow those things. Lodges maybe, but not Cabots. I should pass. You know that I'm not the best company this time of year."
"Bullshit! Aren't you sick of that wallowing? I'll not allow it any longer. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Haven't you heard the song?"
The shock value of a swear word spitting out of Alex's mouth never ceased to confound the people that she worked with, even the most jaded. It made her more accessible and approachable in many ways. She also liked to keep them guessing. Around the time of the Cavanaugh case, she dropped her smug, superior demeanor around Olivia and Elliot. It made an impression, nearly being disbarred. "You work for me", echoed in her head. During the month of her suspension she'd had ample time to reexamine her words and actions. She had nearly lost Liv and Elliot's respect and barely made it through the worst experience of her life. At the same time, it was the best thing that could have happened to her, a Cabot, humbled. She emerged from exile a social animal. She was showing up at O'Malley's, coming by the break room for coffee, chatting up Fin at the cooler, and debating Munch on current events. She had become one of the gang. It wouldn't be easy to go back to her island.
On the other hand, this was out of her comfort zone, all this diversity. Most of her friends were a monochromatic succession of xeroxed Skippys and Cissys from the same privileged trust accounts. She was focused on her future, her career. Friendship with anyone whose father had no social standing did not figure into furthering that course. Except Maria. Well, that was a fluke, a certifiable disaster. The friendship went too far. Sex with women always complicated things. It was infinitely easier with men. They were simple machines, no instructions necessary. Besides, Maria broke her heart.
SVU, visible and flashy, was the fast track up the DA's office ladder. It made the six o'clock news. It was also unrelentingly depressing: humanity at its absolute worst. Somehow Liv in her life made the disgusting aspects of the workday tolerable.
Liv. She liked thinking of her in such a familiar way. Olivia Benson was the most interesting woman Alex had ever met. Unlike her sorority sisters, she was complex without feeling the need to place a veneer over herself. She was confident without arrogance, beautiful without advertising, straightforward without boorishness. Her wonderful scent, musky with a little splash of citrus was how Alex knew Olivia was in the room before she looked up. Special scents had a direct line to the hypothalamus and raging hormones. This realization made her cautious with her emotions concerning this particular detective. She couldn't allow herself to think of Olivia that way.
But it would be so easy. She often caught herself lingering in the periphery just to steal a glance. It surprised her, this attraction to the shorthaired unassuming woman. She liked her looks, stripped down and unadorned. Alex usually went for the power brokers, women comfortable with a ton of muscle beneath them controlled with subtle clues and shifts in weight. They were fresh-faced athletic girls right off the slopes, downhill racers that thrived on speed and danger. Power was their birthright. Wielding it was comfortable. Unfortunately, Alex was often left in their wake as they moved on for the next conquest. It was all about the hunt with them.
Olivia was different, athletic but not professional about it. She had intelligence and grace; but was street-smart tough. Her peers respected her. Unflappable under pressure; yet, with a sympathetic look, she offered a steely vulnerability missing from her partner. They made a perfect team, complementing styles of empathetic and scary, barely under control cop.
Outside of the job, she was a mystery to Alex. She was light and sisterly with her 'boys' at the bar. Then with a snap and a turn she could change from the girl next door to the bad girl in the leather jacket running the table. That's when Alex would catch herself wondering what she'd be like in bed. This was fine as long as it happened at Mahoney's. Yet lately, fantasies seeped in at the most inappropriate times: watching her in the box with a perp, walking with her through the gauntlet at Rikers, in the locker room at the precinct gym, steamy and filled with rowdy, raunchy language, snapping towels, and dripping sweat.
The last time it happened she had Olivia on the stand. She was focused one on one with Olivia; they had prepped intensely for this testimony. Halfway through, the words seemed to be running as a soundtrack. She became aware of the shade of the mahogany railing separating them. The lighting was intense. She was suddenly aware of the exact color of her eyes. There they were in a standing room only case; yet, she felt that they were alone. She stumbled over her question. It scared the hell out of her, getting rattled in court. She had to be more careful. Mainlining Benson was something she could never do again.
"So what the fuck are you still here for, glutton-for-punishment?"
Olivia's shoulders relaxed. The swearing smashed the image of the proper Bostonian. It wouldn't kill her to spend an evening with Alex. She had to admit that the ADA had changed. She wasn't the pain in their collective asses that she'd been. They appreciated her ruthless efficiency with the law. She was good and she knew it. She was just as cool and collected and condescending with the system as she was with the help, i.e. the detectives. She just became more human and less upstairs downstairs, as Munch liked to put it. After a glacial rundown of a case and plan, she could disengage and be witty, fun, and downright soft. Alex, in the last few months, made it on her cell's speed dial. This was a huge step for Olivia. Her job didn't make casual anything easy.
She reconsidered. Maybe an evening with Alex would help her out of this blue holiday funk. She did have to shop for the annual painful evening, the policeman's ball. Alex's advice on fashion would be priceless. Olivia cocked her head as Alex droned on and on making her case on why she should follow her out into the snowy evening. There was nothing so lovely than a compelling argument made by a long, lean drink of water. Alexandra Cabot had it all in spades, the eloquence, the persuasiveness, the passionate plea, and the striking elegance to seal the deal.
What the hell. She could go home and drink three fingers or spend an evening with a massively attractive woman. It was decided. The scenery would definitely improve. Moth to the flame, Olivia shouldered her bag and followed Alex into the street.
Snowing. The city was so still. This kind of quiet just never happens in New York, except when it snows. The rhythm of two pairs of shoes crunching softly was the only thing disturbing the silence. Olivia didn't want to speak. In her imagination, this was a different world; removed from the one she just left in the squad room, the story that she just finished typing. As they marched, curls of frosty air heralded their advance and with each intersection the drifts got deeper. Arm in arm they leaned into each other for warmth and support until they got to their destination.
With regret the doors of Saks swallowed the both of them. The warm air plowed onto Alex. Why wasn't Bergdorf's the place they were going? It was several more blocks up. Because of the snow they nixed going to Barney's. Alex was hoping to duck into a few of her favorite cozy cafes in Chelsea. But the chance to walk in the softly falling snow was too much of an opportunity. They would be alone. There would be the promise of laughter and actual body contact. All that was now ending by entering fluorescent caverns HOLIDAY SALE blaring at all sides.
"Never pay retail, my kind of store," said Alex.
Olivia smiled through her scarf. "That's why you guys have so much money."
"Owww, I'm hurt. When have I ever played the poor little rich girl?"
Peeling their coats off, Olivia announced, "I need an outfit for that damn policeman's ball. Elliot and Kathy expect me to go with them. And I need you to help me find something that won't make me feel like it's Halloween."
"Liv, you'd look like royalty in sackcloth," Alex said under her breath.
Alex spoke up, "It will be a dress this year. I refuse to allow you to continue going to a formal affair with a pantsuit."
"But it's so uncomfortable in a dress. I never feel right."
"Just think of it as an undercover gig, a character to play. That's what I do."
"Yes, but you look like you belong in a fabulous dress. I would be acting."
"How do you know? I'll bet that you've not worn a dress since prom night."
"You'd lose, on both counts. I have a dress that I hate wearing and I didn't go to a prom."
"Basing a belief system on one dress is a little flimsy. The key is finding the right cut for who Olivia Benson is. If it looks good, you'll love how you feel in it. You'll own the room."
"Wow, Alex, you should be on 'Oprah' or is it 'Dr. Phil' now?" Olivia was shuffling through the rack. "Oh,oh,oh, this is you," She picked up a frilly number and held it against Alex's throat as they both dissolved into laughter.
A very fashionable shop girl rushed over to the duo in the formal section. It was a lucky shift for her. Looking at both her clients, tonight she could be sincere about the way the clothes would look on them. And she could tell they were there to buy. After a few minutes, she deduced that the beautiful dyke had her straight friend help her with her wardrobe. Once the dark stretch pants and tee /sweater combo came off and was replaced with a form fitting dress, Ms. Butch looked drop dead gorgeous. It was quite the transformation. Judging from the brief slack jawed look the cool blonde gave as the friend exited the change room; the clerk rearranged her thoughts on their connection. At any rate, waiting on this couple was definitely the highlight of her holiday season.
Alex watched Olivia as she negotiated the course to the ladies room. It was perhaps the most satisfying three hours that she had in quite some time. She remembered the curves concealed by the current no-nonsense ensemble and how they so perfectly filled the smart little number bought tonight. Benson would knock them out at the ball. She smiled softly as she sipped her latte.
"Hey, Alex. Whatcha doing here, slummin' on Madison? Not alone, I see."
Alex looked up to see Maddy Wainwright.
"I just popped in to pick up take out and here you are in MY neighborhood and you don't call me?" She glanced at the place setting across from Alex with a raised eyebrow. "Must be a hot date?"
Alex laughed, "No date. Just a friend. We were out holiday shopping. Why don't you join us?"
At that moment, Maddy looked up to see Olivia returning to the table. She really needed to get back home; but Alex's dinner date was much too intriguing. "I don't mind if I do," she replied and her layers were quickly dispatched to the coatroom.
"Olivia Benson, this is Madelyn Wainwright. She's my oldest and dearest friend."
Olivia shook the firm hand of a very attractive, confident sandy blonde in a tailored suit. She could have been looking at Alex's sister; except, this woman looked straight into Olivia's eyes. Alex never looked that intently at Olivia. It was a little unsettling.
"Call me Maddy, I have the advantage of Alex speaking often of you, Detective; although, she neglected to tell me you were such good friends." As she sat down, she sent a questioning glance to Alex. "You've been hiding things from me, Alex. It's not like you."
Alex wasn't sure why her laugh felt forced or why she suddenly felt annoyed at Maddy showing up.
"I'm sorry to say that I haven't had the pleasure of many conversations that haven't involved our work. In fact, this is probably the first real personal conversation we've had...ever." Olivia stopped suddenly very aware of how true that statement was. She knew very little about her ADA 's life outside of the job. This meeting of a friend of Alex's was suddenly, very interesting since Olivia got the very clear impression of Maddy being flirtatious. One thing Olivia had experience with was a woman hitting on her. It was decidedly not unpleasant in this instance.
Alex interjected, "Maddy and I went to school together, practically grew up in the same home. She finally moved out to go to law school."
"I was taken in by the Cabots as I was a million miles from my home in New Orleans and quite helpless. I don't know why my parents paid the room and board when I basically lived at Alex's."
"Don't believe the helpless part for a second. She was a terrible influence on me. My mother thought she was an angel. She had that southern belle thing going completely pulled the wool over the whole family's eyes."
"Oh, come on, if it wasn't for my charm, your daddy would have sold Max the first time he threw you." She turned to Olivia to explain. "He was an amazing piece of horseflesh but had a peculiar phobia for certain noises, especially bells. He couldn't get through a trial without freaking out. Our girl here finally figured him out and cured him."
"Not before he nearly hung me from the magnolia the day the ice cream man showed up early. It was a long haul but it was worth it. He was a magnificent jumper. Maddy convinced my father that the stable hands were exaggerating his temperament and he was just a little high-strung."
"Eccentric, that was the word I used. It's a nice southern word for ape-shit crazy but your daddy didn't know that." She turned again to Olivia and added, "I was terrified of the brute and was sure that he'd kill us both but she was convinced that he was just misunderstood."
"I was right, wasn't I?"
"Yes, darlin'. You were always right, especially concerning certain horse trainers."
Alex flashed a warning glance and changed the subject. "No one had better ideas for practical jokes than Maddy. Peter never figured out who put the blow up doll in his football locker. She was wrapped so tightly with saran wrap that it took an hour to get her free."
"Served him right for telling everyone that I had a crush on Emily Rush." She turned to Olivia. "Peter's Alex's brother, and he loved going through my panty drawers and ended up finding my diary."
"He was lucky you let him off that easy. She felt sorry for him because he had it so bad for her." She directed the latter to Olivia.
"Remember that night we snuck out of your house and changed the titles on the theatre marquee? People woke up and found some pretty racy movies were playing in their neighborhood."
Alex smiled at the memory, 'Debbie Does Dallas-banned in 26 countries.' Maddy had convinced her to do some outrageous things.
Olivia said, "So vandals became officers of the court? These experiences steered you two into the high powered, glamorous world of the law and the disenfranchised."
Alex laughed, "It certainly wasn't the money."
"The nice thing about coming from money is that one can be an ACLU grunt and have political aspirations and still live in Manhattan," Maddy said triumphantly.
The conversation that ensued was bright, witty, and spirited. Olivia hadn't laughed so freely in ages. Maddy was definitely a live wire. There was something slightly dangerous about her; yet, carefully insulated and organized. She could imagine the raw ends of this woman sneaking around and burning the hell out of a girl.
Alex sat helplessly as she watched Olivia's and Maddy's repartee. She'd figured that Olivia was probably bisexual; but this was the confirmation. Here was the usually guarded detective with very open body language, courting Alex's best friend who happened to be a lesbian. She looked at her watch and said, "I hate to break up this lovely conversation, but Liv and I should really get going."
Olivia shot a glance at Alex.
"Of course, I also need to get going. Olivia, you must come to my party Friday night. Alex will bring you along," she continued looking pointedly at Alex. "About 7ish, casual dress."
"I'd love to come."
"Excellent! It has been most delightful meeting you, Olivia." Maddy held out her hand and Olivia reflexively stood and took it. It was remarkably, old fashioned, as if she was being led to a minuet. "Oh and they say chivalry is dead."
Olivia was taken aback. She wasn't sure if it was more by her own unfamiliar actions or by the blatant sexualization of a simple touch. All she knew was that her mouth was incapable of uttering a sound. It made the correct movement but her tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth and all that tumbled over was a cross between a squeak and a croak.
As Maddy gathered her pocketbook and made her exit, Olivia sat back and turned to Alex. "Your good friend? Damn, I should have been hanging out with you earlier."
"Olivia, I had no idea you were so inclined."
"Alex, come on. You aren't that clueless." She paused suddenly curious at the possibility of Alex as gay, then dismissed it just as quickly. No, she never felt that vibe. What a damn shame.
Alex answering her cell interrupted her thoughts. "Excuse me while I take this."
"Alex, if you don't bring that nice piece of candy with you Friday, I will never speak to you again. In fact, I may be giving you a bit of a cold shoulder for keeping that woman to yourself. Are you? If I'd known that you were jumping the broom again, well I wouldn't have to endure my countless lesbian friends badgering me about their chances with you. I could just yell open season and watch the fur fly."
"Now, Mother, if you would just let me get a word in, I'm at a restaurant now. You're probably imagining things. Just take one of your little blue pills and go to sleep."
"Alex, if I'm not her cup of tea, I've got million friends who would chew their own arms off to get next to that stunning wet dream of a woman."
"I have to go. Call Edward in the morning and he'll get an exterminator to check it out." She clicked off the cell, buried it in her handbag, and smiled apologetically.
"Sorry, Liv, mice in the attic. My mother is terrified of the creatures. Would you help me get these packages to a cab?"
Olivia's grin flashed into a thousand watt smile. The holiday season was starting to look a little brighter. Lucky for her that she accepted Alex's offer tonight. Friday was certainly something to look forward to.
Maddy clicked off her cell in the chill of the Manhattan night. She smiled. Alex has finally caught a clue. She was always protesting too much when Maddy insisted that she was way too butch for most men. Maria. That was as close as she ever got to a meaningful relationship. Alex, the queen of denial, said it was just a lark. She was just curious. She really wasn't upset when Maria dumped her for that actress cousin of hers. Alex could be so Virginia Wolfe. It was only a matter of time until the right Ms Right came along to revisit those old college tries. Better latent than never. Maddy had the feeling that Olivia Benson could be the woman who would fit that bill: smart, charming, and freakin' hot. Yeah, I'm right. Maddy sighed, "too bad I'm hopelessly in love already." Stealing Olivia from Alex could be a feat to be relished.
Olivia's locker slammed shut. Elliot glanced over. "Date tonight? Let's see, dark slacks, that cream number..."
"With just a hint of cleavage," Munch interjected. "Not to mention the short nail manicure, fresh haircut "
"Definitely, not with a man tonight," Elliot surmised looking very smug.
Olivia rolled her eyes. "I'm going to a party with Alex; and, it's not what you think."
Munch stepped back and grabbed his heart and began to stumble. Fin announced, having walked up in the middle of it, "Hey, I'm down wit that. I told you guys that Alex had some game goin'."
"Get your minds out of the gutter. I think that she's setting me up with one of her friends tonight. Alex doesn't sit in that pew Munch, get off the damn floor." Munch could really take his jokes way too far.
"I wouldn't be so sure of that. She's downright cold to men. I've seen a few of her dates. Trevor Langdon? Really. Could any woman be serious about him?" Elliot winked.
Fin smirked, "That guy couldn't pay enough for it, even in alphabet city. Him scorin' Ms. ADAness? No way, I don't see it."
"Guys, I'm not dating Alex. One of her friends.... Elliot, get that shit eating grin off your face. Forget it. I'm not going to encourage you any longer."
"Get out!" Elliot did his best 'Elaine' shoving Munch.
"I can be the master of my own domain, if I want to," Munch exclaimed dramatically.
"I think I gotta go to the john now," Fin slinked off.
"Lock the door behind you," Olivia said. "What are you guys, twelve?"
Munch threw down a ten. "I'm out."
How does she manage it? End of a brutal workweek, conclusion to a bitch of a day, courtrooms and meetings and she still looks like the breck girl. Not a hair out of place, suit without a wrinkle, make up without a smudge. Olivia thought as she watched Alex finish up her paperwork. "Really, Alex, how can you look this great at the end of the day?"
"The answer lies in my dry cleaning bill, which is massive, thank you very much. Also, I tip Mrs. Nueyen at Hair Express very well." Alex's eyes sparkled with delight as she shouldered her satchel.
Olivia smiled. For one quick moment she wished that Alex was her date for the evening. She quickly struck that thought as they headed out.
"I hope you don't mind if we stop at my place. This isn't exactly party attire."
Twenty minutes later, Olivia found herself in Alex's apartment. It surprised her. She half expected Louis the 14th but found herself in a very contemporary, homey place. Except, of course, that the family pictures had famous people in them. "Alex, is this Natalie Watkins with you and your mom?"
"Yeah. She's my cousin." Alex walked out of her bedroom as she finished buttoning her blouse. Olivia quickly turned away.
She's embarrassed, Alex thought. Then she realized that she had indeed walked out half dressed. She nonchalantly turned back into her room and called back, "That was at last Christmas, at my folks' in Boston."
"That would make Kurt Watkins your cousin too?"
"Yeah, they went to Yale and got the acting bug. They gave their parents a coronary going for the whole hollywood fame thing."
I guess I don't know much about you at all, Olivia mused as she looked at a small-framed picture at the end of the mantle. Alex was beaming with her arms around a very beautiful Latina.
Alex stepped behind her. "That's Maria. She was my best friend for a time at school."
"Where is she now?"
"Well that would probably be in my cousin's bed, Nat's, not Kurt's."
As they walked the few blocks to Maddy's apartment, Olivia was turning over the theory that Alex was not as straight as she made out to be. Maybe Elliot, Fin, and Munch were right, that she was a closet case. Wouldn't that be a kick in the pants?
"Welcome to the cesspool of human indignity," Maddy said with a flourish. "Sink in it. Olivia, I thought that you'd never get here." Maddy grabbed Olivia's arm and led her into the room. "Lets get your coats off and get y'all a drink."
"I know you've been at it a while. Your accent 's out." Alex said.
"Ohhhh, and it 's not nearly enough." It came out as a hiss. "That damn woman came with her husband," she whispered. Olivia looked puzzled. "I haven't been completely honest with you Olivia. I've been seeing a particularly unavailable woman. But, since you've chosen to come here, I'd love it if you'll pay a lot of special attention to me tonight."
"Hey, wait a minute," Alex cried, "where does that leave me? Liv, I thought you were my date tonight."
"It's my party and I should be the one with the hottest woman in the room." Maddy dragged Olivia to the kitchen leaving Alex to be engulfed by two men. Each of them was vying to give her a glass of chardonnay.
Maddy squired Olivia off into the far corner of the room, as far from Alex as she could get. She was starting phase one of her plan, separate and let Alex stew.
"Shhhh, Olivia, don't be scared, I've no designs on you. I just want to make my so-called girlfriend squirm a bit, if you don't mind.... and maybe we can make someone else here a little bit jealous?"
Olivia turned quickly, "there's nothing between Alex and I.... she's not ...is she?"
Maddy smiled, "Not officially, listen, I've known Alex a while and while it is not a habit with her, she has been known to cross the fence more than a few times. She shoots all kinds of nonsense out her ass. She doesn't like to label herself. It's the person, not the gender, blah,blah,blah. Darlin', there's a reason that she dumps every fiancé just when they start talking about dates to book the country club. She never misses my parties. And she spends more time chatting up my lady friends than the eligible men in the room."
Olivia answered thoughtfully, "I think you are wrong about her being interested in me. I don't get that vibe from Alex. Really, I think I could tell if she were interested in me. It's not there." Alex seemed too comfortable in her apartment tonight, especially when half dressed.
"Maybe not yet," said Maddy. "I wouldn't count yourself out. Have you looked at yourself in the mirror; and, did you check out her photos in her apartment? She's a goner. I know her all too well. The question is, do you want to find out?"
Silence. It was an intriguing turn of events given the new information about Alex's sexual history. Olivia's look was the answer.
"I'll help you, if you help me."
The rest of the evening was a blur. Olivia had never gotten so much attention by so many women in her life. The problem was trying to figure out which ones were gay. Maddy's friends were definitely the more glam types. Alex spent most of the evening shrugging off men and helplessly watching Olivia playing gay Cinderella.
"That used to be me. She's taken my place, Maddy. I'm always the belle of your balls," she pouted cheerfully as she caught up with Maddy in the kitchen.
"Yeah, but with Olivia, they see a ray of hope. When there's fresh grade A lesbian around, who wastes their time with the unattainable straight, bi, whatever you are deciding to call yourself these days fantasy. That is, except, yours truly. I can't resist the straight married bi-curious."
Maddy's plan had been a success. After about an hour of close touchy feelliness with Olivia, Maddy's object of affection developed a massive migraine and left with her husband. Looking at Alex checking out Olivia's fan club, Maddy claimed double victory. Alex was more than slighted. She was not accustomed to playing second fiddle. She was also watching Olivia in a new light. This was not the restrained, collected emotionally veiled detective she worked with every day. A fascinating woman usurped her. And she was enthralled.
The walk home was a subdued affair filled with small talk about the diverse cast of characters in Maddy's circle. Olivia definitely felt a bit of tension between them.
Alex stopped in front of her building and casually commented, "Weren't you the babe magnet tonight?"
"I actually got two dates for next week. That's better than I've done in years."
"So what about me, don't I get a date?"
"Wasn't tonight a date?"
"Not when you spend all evening with five other women and leave me be a wallflower."
"Do I detect a little hostility counselor?"
Alex stopped, grabbed Olivia, looked her straight in the eyes and said, "I don't want to dance around this any more. No joke. I'd like a chance with you. I'd like you to come up to my apartment and stay the night."
Olivia was stunned. "Does that work? Shifting gears like that. Suddenly announcing, hey, we're nothing but friends/ I only eat meat; but tonight I think I want sushi."
"You can't tell me that you didn't figure me out. Maddy most certainly can't keep a secret. And you are too good a detective to feign naiveté. You know I adore you." Alex really didn't fully understand why she suddenly was finding herself throwing herself at her friend. But there she was denigrating herself at her own doorstep.
The doorman looking on was feigning disinterest as he held the door open.
"So you see something you like and you figure you'll just take it."
"Quid pro quo. Are you in or are you out?"
Olivia overcome with disgust started walking down toward the Lincoln station, staring back in disbelief at the absurdity of the last five minutes.
Charlton smiled behind his work mask. You learn something new everyday. He thought of all those guys that never got asked up. He'd never be able to look at Ms 904 the same again. That chick was a fool to turn that ride down.
The nerve of Alex! What arrogance that she thought she could just flick her index finger and I would just fall into her bed. Jesus Christ, as she sank into her leather chair, she very nearly stayed. That would have been humiliating...Monday at the station. She wasn't sure if she could look Alex in the face again. Just when she thought that she might try dating women again, Alex goes and throws a goddamn monkey wrench into her plans. Damn, Alex. Could she have been more conventioneer about it all?
Ringing disturbed her ranting, "Liv, are you there? Are you screening? Please, please forgive me. I don't know what the hell I was doing. I don't really date women; but I wanted you to think I did it all the time. Pick up, I'm dying here. I can't bear what you think of me now. I'd take it all back if I could I got jealous All Maddy's fabulous lesbians all after you ." It was plaintive and desparate and trailed off into defeat.
By the time Olivia got to the phone the dial tone pealed. She stared at the phone and the blinking light for what seemed like hours. She should call her but what would she say? If she talked to the woman that just left that message, she'd sure to be in her bed tonight. Who was Alexandra Cabot anyway? Latex, that's what she felt needed to get on before disturbing the evidence. Finally, Olivia made the move to pick up the phone. It rang again. "Alex.........oh hi, Elliot. ...No, I'm good to go..........I'll meet you up there. Be there in 20." With a sigh, she pulled on her coat.
The Next Day
"Oh, my word. I never thought I'd ever say these words but Alex, you look like shit warmed over."
Alex entered and walked straight to the bar. "I need your happy hour special. Maddy, I screwed up royally with Olivia."
"It's official. I am a genius. You DO have the hots for that woman. Knew it, knew it, knew IT. What'd you do, hon?"
"I was enormously stupid."
"She turned you down. I like her even more."
"She basically said I was arrogant."
Maddy finished mixing and pouring her vodka special and handed it to a very dejected Alex. "Well, there is one good thing about this. At least you were being yourself."
"Damn, you are brutal."
"Look at it this way. She's your friend. She must like it at least a little bit."
"I am not that bad. Case in point, you and your snobby intellectual friends last night "
"Darlin', you have moments that make me look like Mother Theresa. Face it, you lost last night. And I know how much you hate to lose."
Alex collapsed on the couch. "I am the competitive one, aren't I?"
"So, let's see, you gathered yourself in all your Cabotry and gave one of you famous summations."
"Yeah, and the jury didn't buy it."
"You know what they say about fooling the people."
"I don't know what to do now. I was such an ass. Monday, Jesus, what will I do?"
"Come on, you are a lot tougher than that. It's just the first set."
"But in the women's game there are only three. That means that I have one more chance. If I blow it, game over." Alex put her hands together, looked up at Maddy, and confessed in a hushed tone, "She has everything on The List."
"This is serious. You've put some thought into this. The List? I can see most of it but does she like kids, dogs, and horses?"
"Maddy, it's all there, the important stuff, the anti-Stratford /Cabot bond." She paused and added, "I've never met anyone kinder."
Maddy sat next to Alex and pulled her close. Incredibly, Alex dissolved into her embrace. "You really do like her. Oh God, what's worst, you respect her. I guess Nanny Maddy is just gonna have ta make it better." She patted her blonde locks maternally.
Alex looked up and simply whispered, "Help . I want to run over to her place and throw myself at her feet."
"Direct and aggressive obviously didn't work last night. I suspect the stalker angle would creep her out. Assume you need to step back and let her take the lead."
"But she'll find somebody else."
"Let's see, she's having drinks Wednesday with Laura. Nothing to worry about there. She's a lousy lay. Friday is dinner with Drea, that may be more of a threat," she trailed off.
"Have you slept with every woman in this city?"
"Not nearly, there is you and Olivia and Roy's great aunt."
"Stop joking around. What if she goes out and is captivated by someone and falls hopelessly in love?"
"Hon, that's a chance that you'll have to take. You go over now and she'll take out a restraining order out on you. Besides, you are both too old for that lust equals true love nonsense. And stop thinking of this as a competition. I know that you can be patient. Look what you did with Mad Max. No one else gave him a chance but you. God, you were beautiful with him. Let her see that Alex, the one I know. Then, how could she resist?"
"Maddy, how come I can't fall in love with you?"
In mock disgust, Maddy countered, "That would be so incestuous. Oh God, I think I'm getting the vapors. Olivia would have to arrest me, put me in cuffs, and lead me away." Maddy started to unbutton Alex's jeans.
"Maddy, you are incorrigible." Alexandra Cabot curled up in her best friend's lap and mentally chastised herself. Her impulsiveness always got her into trouble when it came to budding relationships.
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