DISCLAIMER: Any similarities to people and events real or made up are purely coincidental. This is a work of fiction with characters borrowed from Dick Wolf. Inconsistencies with canon, if any, are intentional.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Part 1 of a triptych written in 03/10, aftermath of "P.C."; contains spoilers from Conviction and SVU episodes. Not part of my on-going Lemon Seed and Orange Tree universe at firstname.lastname@example.org
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To lexalex001[at]yahoo.com
By Adrienne Lee
"Can I ask you something?"
Elliot cocked his brow and lifted a corner of his mouth. When he realized his partner actually expected a serious answer, he replied, "Shoot."
"We're partners. We've been partners "
"For over a decade. Yeah?"
"We know each other. You know me. You knew Porter was bad news before I did."
"He wasn't the biggest A-hole you've wanted to date, to date." He sniggered at his own joke.
She shook her head. "Like I said "
"And you're wondering why I haven't asked about your new flame."
"I'm who said I'm ". Olivia threw up her mental hands and surrendered. "How'd you know?"
"You just said, we've been partners, and I know you."
"But there had been times you didn't know "
"There were times I didn't care. Actually, didn't want to know, to tell you the truth."
"So, are we gonna talk about your new flame?"
She took a deep breath, and released it in a deeper sigh. "We trust each other, trust each other with our lives, right, Elliot?"
"Every minute, every day."
"So you know I trust you."
"But you don't want to tell me. That's okay." He reached over and patted her on the shoulder. "You don't have to, and I don't have to know, unlike the other times."
"Huh?" She wasn't sure she understood him. "You don't?"
He shook his head and smiled. "You've been burned. Singed at least. So you want to keep this to yourself for a little bit. That's okay."
"Thanks." Olivia nodded in agreement. "I guess I do."
"You look different. Maybe sunnier, if that make sense? Whoever you're dating, isn't dragging you down. Isn't twisting you up in knots or fucking with your head. Am I right?"
"Maybe?" She thought about it for a long minute. "Yeah, okay, you're right."
"Well." He shrugged. "So no need for intervention. Don't need to know."
"But, there are things Sometimes it's confusing "
"You want some advice?"
"Sure. I guess "
"Stop thinking so hard. Just enjoy whatever you have. And when you're ready, you'll introduce me, okay?"
"What if," it was someone you already know? She almost asked, but by coincidence or design, he didn't give her a chance.
"Don't think too much. Maybe you've found 'the one', maybe you haven't, but you look sometimes you look like you're lost in your little happy world." Before Olivia could protest, he shook his head. "Don't worry. I'm sure no one else noticed. They don't know you as well as I do. Anyway, you deserve to be happy, is all I'm sayin'."
"In a way, we're partners, right?" Olivia began, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. Briefly, she wondered if it was too late to change course, and pulled the sheets tighter about her chest instead. "I mean, I catch them, and you put them away, same with you and El, and John, and Fin."
"Okay?" Alex kept an easy smile on her face. "What's this about?"
"I don't know." She brushed a hand through her hair and sagged her shoulders. "Well, I was thinking there needs to be trust between us, too."
"But it's not the same."
"As you and the guys? I'm not out there with a gun with you. If one of you got clobbered, all I "
Olivia shook her head. That wasn't what she meant. "It doesn't matter."
"What's bothering you?"
"Nothing." She sighed. "Not really. Anyway, we need to move up the alarm. The roadwork. I almost didn't get home before he "
"Why don't you just tell Elliot not to pick you up?" Alex asked while turning away and reaching for her Blackberry. "I can drop you off."
"Because." Olivia sighed again as she watched the muscles played on the woman's back. She could kick herself.
"You don't want him to know."
"I I don't know."
Was it just understanding she heard? Or was there resignation? She searched blue eyes now looking at her. "Are you sure?"
"I know you don't tell him about everyone you date."
"No." Was that regret she felt?
"So it's not like I'm different." Alex shrugged. "That I'm setting any precedent either way. Anyway, let's get some shut eye if we're gonna get up earlier. 5:30 okay?"
Olivia pressed her mouth tightly in acquiescent. But maybe she was different. Olivia didn't know, only that she wasn't ready for the answer. With a small smile, she leaned in, and touched their lips together
"So what happens, I mean, with us, you know, between us," Olivia asked as she dropped her bag casually onto the leather couch. It seemed like she had been doing this forever. In two large steps, she was face to face with her companion, and she reached for her buttons..
"What do you mean?"
"Do we see each other for a while? And like, after, say, six to nine months, or maybe a year? Then do we move in together?"
"We've been seeing each other for a month and a half, if you counted from when we first slept together." Alex took off her glasses and laughed. "Do you always think this far ahead?"
"I don't know," Olivia replied quickly, defensively. Then she stopped herself. "Honestly? No, I don't. I never did. But you know, this." She gestured the breath of space between them before closing it. "This is new territory for me."
"You mean what do lesbians
"Well, technically I'm not, and neither are you "
"Okay." Alex closed her eyes briefly. "I get it."
"Wait, wait, I'm not sure you do." She buried her face in the curve of her lover's neck, and felt the woman stiffen. "Oh, hell, I'm not sure I do either."
"All right, why don't you get back to me when you've figured it out."
Desperately, Olivia hung on. "You're mad."
"Aggravated, somewhat.". Alex tried in vain to pull away. "Frustrated well, no, that's not the right word. Anyway, just figure out what you want," she said, and braced herself for the confrontation.
There was that wall again. It burned her to feel it going up and shuttering in place and she drew their bodies closer. "But what about what you want?"
"Look, Liv, it takes two. One party can't just unilaterally want."
"Are you leaving this entirely up to me?"
"Are we heading towards our first real fight?"
"I don't think it's fair," the detective protested as she held on, feeling paralysed. "It's not fair for the ball to be completely in my court."
"Olivia, please," Alex nearly begged. Someone had to back down to end the stalemate. "I really don't want to fight with you. You know how my day went, you were right there when Donnelly all but threw her gavel at me. I'm too tired to fight."
"Let's just... One day at a time. A moment, even."
"Fine," Olivia wanted to huff again. Then she caught herself. Wasn't that part of the appeal? That they knew about each other's work. No surprises, just awareness and accord because they were in it, in each case, together? "Alex?"
When there was no reply, she reached out, and stroked her companion's hair away from her face, and brushed the pad of her thumb along her lips. She waited until there was understanding and acceptance. "I'm sorry," she whispered against parting lips.
For the moment, it was enough, enough to lead them to the next
"Do you believe in love at first sight?"
"What?" Elliot wagged his brows at the brunette and laughed. "Is that what you have?"
"I don't know. Well, maybe not exactly at first sight. But "
"But it is love?"
"Maybe?" Self-consciously, Olivia nixed the whine and lowered her voice. "So do you?"
"Kathy and I got married young, remember?"
"You had to, I thought."
"I remembered the first time I saw her, she was with her girlfriends, I think they were laughing at us boys. But then our eyes met, and she had this smile "
His face took on a dreaminess that was entirely out of character. It made her raise her hand in protest, "Okay, okay, I think I'm gonna hurl."
"Fine." She paused, and grudgingly admitted, "That's really sweet, actually."
"So, is that how you feel?"
"I don't know." Again, in for a penny, she decided; and if she had to pick one person in the world to trust, right now it'd be him. So, she confessed, "I asked, um, last week, I asked what we were gonna do, six or nine months from now."
"Wow. I knew you fell, that this is not the serial one-nighter with the same guy. But, man, you've fallen hard."
She sank her face in her hands. "I'm effing screwed.."
He ducked his head, until she looked up to meet his eyes. "So you're serious about this love interest."
"You know, El, maybe it's me being over sensitive, but you've never actually said 'guy' or 'him' or 'he' " When all he did was look back at her with a hint of a smirk, she made herself hold her gaze steady. "I started to wonder how much you know."
"You know it's not a guy."
"It's not a guy," Ellliot confirmed.
"You don't know who, do you?" She asked, and saw him add a wink to his full-fledge smirk. "Oh, my god, when?"
"Before or after?"
"Before or after?"
"Liv, just the other day, you reminded me we've been partners for over a decade. And she didn't just walk into our bullpen yesterday."
"So you knew."
"Probably before you did."
"What? Before I Never mind." Maybe she'd interrogate him another time. This was more important, "You're saying you fine with that?"
"Why wouldn't I be?" Elliot smiled genuinely. "I'm real happy for you. For both of you."
She sighed, grateful for the reprieve.
"So when can I stop picking you up? Don't know if you're there enough to notice, but they're tearing up the streets around you. And I'm sure her bimmer rides a lot nicer."
"Oh, god, Liv, I'm so sorry."
"Really. Are you gonna be okay?"
"I can't believe she didn't tell you."
"I'm, I'm sure she has her reasons."
"It sucks. It so sucks." He paced the floor with his fists tight against his body. "I mean, not just because we're losing her. But you "
She wished he'd stop the outrage on her behalf. It only fueled the pain burning her insides. "Elliot, can we drop this?"
"You need to face the facts, Liv."
"We don't know what the facts are yet."
"So what? We're gonna put on a happy face and act like we didn't know?"
He didn't have to use 'we' to show his support, she thought, and told him. "Let's go ask."
"You want me there?"
To ensure she didn't make a scene in public. "Let's go."
"So when were you gonna tell me?" Olivia demanded. After stewing for what seemed like years, she still couldn't hide the bitterness if she tried.
"Sorry, Liv, I was going to I don't know, I just " Alex sighed. "Once I got the ball rolling, I couldn't stop. And I'm sorry you found out the way you did. I should've told you, but I wanted to be sure that they have a vacancy, for me. I'd only found out a few days before you did, and I'd been looking for the right time "
There was never a right time to break someone's heart, Olivia thought bleakly. "I wish I could fault you for taking the job. I know you could make a real difference."
"So where does that leave us?"
"Us?" Alex blinked. She hadn't thought of that. Everything just happened so quickly, and it wasn't just the jobs, the relocation. "I'm sorry, Liv, I didn't " She let out a deeper sigh. "It just, just didn't seem important, you know, compared to the suffering of these women, our happiness, or wherever it was we were going "
Gone was the lawyer's normal eloquence, Olivia noticed. And the past tense, it was as if the woman had already said 'goodbye'. She saw the pain in the pale eyes, and wondered how much of it was for victims like Nardali, who needed her help. "Seemed selfish, to just focus on our relationship," she offered.
"Yeah." Alex hugged her own torso. "I'm so sorry, Liv." She lifted her head to stare at the ceiling. "I hope you don't hate me."
"I'm not being a very good tour guide," she spat, to shield the shake in her voice. Then her gaze drifted to the floor. "I'm taking off, leaving, before you finished the tour."
"Anyway, I gotta go." Still avoiding the detective's eyes, she reached for a folder on her desk, and slapped it shut. "I've got an exit interview with McCoy."
"Yeah. And I have to make arrangements "
"I'll be travelling a lot. Between the U.N. field offices in Africa. Although the Court itself is seated in the Netherlands, where I'll be based when I'm not helping to train the local authorities."
"Really?" In a way, that was good news to the detective. At least the blonde wouldn't be in the cross hair, not all the time.
"I'm sorry, Liv, I'm really, really sorry." She turned away and moved towards the door. "Can I see you," she pleaded, "Just you, before I go?"
"Yeah." Olivia fingered the closed folder and thought about the days and minutes they had left. "I'll call you."
Olivia hadn't known what to expect when she knocked on the door. "Wow." Now, she gaped at the sight that greeted her. "You look like a flame."
"Uh, I'm sorry, I'll go change."
"No, no, not the moth thing," she rushed to her lover's side and held her hands. "You're beautiful. Absolutely stunning." When she got the smile she wanted, she added, "It actually, it reminds me of the time we, El and I, interrupted your dinner with Langon."
"Oh, right, I was wearing a red dress, wasn't I?" Alex replied hesitantly. "It was so long ago."
"Yeah. It was."
"Another lifetime ago."
"You know, I had a hard time not staring."
Alex followed the detective's eyes, and laughed with a hint of embarrassment. "And you're staring now."
"But I can now. I mean, I still can, right?" Olivia let her hope and expectation show. "And maybe later, after dinner, I can do more than stare?"
"I got to thinking. Well, okay, Elliot sorta helped, after he got used to the idea. But you know? It's not like we don't have phones, or emails. You said a leave, and you're not selling this place. So, not forever, right? You plan to come back, sometime, and I've never been to the Netherlands," she finished in a single breath.
"But Liv I thought, I just assume "
"Alex, I have something for you." The brunette let go, and stepped back slightly. "Two things, actually."
"First, here." She pulled a black plastic bag from her purse.
"A Mister Softee tee shirt!" Alex saw the grin on the brunette's face and understood. "You remembered."
"Yeah." In the last weeks, Olivia had realized when it came to the ADA, she forgot very few things. "So here's the other," she said, and handed over the other item. "Happy three-month anniversary."
"A baseball?" Alex turned the sphere in her hand; her smile a mixture of amusement and confusion. "A signed baseball."
"The Yankees. Pulled some strings, but they all signed it. So you have two things you can take with you, to remind you of home. And they're small."
"Oh, I'll find room for them, regardless."
"The ball, it's symbolic," Olivia explained just in case her point wasn't clear. "The one you keep leaving in my court? Now it's back in yours."
"I love you, Alex." It wasn't as difficult as she had imagined, for her to say those three words. In a way, it was liberating. "I've loved you for a long time, and I doubt I'll ever stop," she added, and held her breath as blue eyes pooled.
"I'm sorry " The blonde choked. "I can't "
"That's okay, you don't have to love me back," she said, despite the raw punch in her guts.
"No, no, I just wish, I wish I could stay. I wish Oh god, Liv." She pushed tears from her eyes, and clung to the detective. "I do, I do love you."
Olivia sighed, in joy, relief, regret. The ache inside was receding, to be replaced by another burn. She had no words for the mixture of emotions she felt.
"God, this is so screwed up."
"So it is," she agreed, recalling her conversation with Stabler, about his separation, and his marriage that strengthened afterwards. It was time for her to step outside the box. Hell, burn it even. Maybe their love would come out of it like the mythical bird, instead of the tragic moth.
"But if you find someone else "
"Likewise," Olivia said with a dismissive grin as she shook her head. "But we'll figure it out." She touched and wound her fingers in her companion's hair. Power and vulnerability and fear and elation, all jumbled. Was it how people felt, when Prometheus gave them fire? "We find a way."
"You seem so confident, and sure."
"You know what? I am." She smiled into light blue orbs. "I love you, Alex. I have, for a long time like I said. Maybe even since the first time I laid eyes on you."
"I remember you were wearing a beige suit, marching into the squad room like you owned the joint." It seemed almost like just yesterday. "Yep, I remember that day very well."
Olivia smiled, watching her companion process the information. When the last piece fell into place, she confirmed, "Yeah."
"Love at first sight?"
"Probably." She pulled the blonde into her arms. "Just took me a long time to recognize the signs."
"Signs. And all the autographs?"
Olivia smiled crookedly. "Witnesses, if you must."
"Witnesses," Alex echoed with a smile of her own.
"To show the parties are in accord," the brunette whispered, tipping her lover's chin. Legally, it was all wrong, she knew that, but she didn't care. "I want," she said before their lips met, and let their passion consume them.
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