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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Coming Out, Staying In
By Katherine Quinn

Chapter 17: Alex

I can feel every beat of my heart pounding in the bridge of my nose. I'm tired, and I'm in pain, and this doctor is telling me that I'm supposed to wait a week before he can do anything to fix this. I guess I hadn't expected that. I figured that modern medicine should be able to make the pain stop and make it not look dreadful all in the same hour.

He's looking at us with this slight smirk on his arrogant face that's making me feel we're in seventh grade, and that he's looking up my skirt with his shoe. Out of the corner of my eye, I watch you stretch your hand out to hold mine, but I can feel this guy getting off on seeing us together in his mind. I can feel my back straighten involuntarily as I pull behind my facade of being entirely professional. I can feel my heart break when your sigh registers in my ears as I slide my body out of your hand's grasp.

I don't mean to be like this, hot and cold with you. I love you, I love you so much, but I hate the idea of this bastard looking at you and looking at me and thinking about what we do with each other behind closed doors. Yeah, I know he's a doctor. That makes him some kind of professional who's supposed to be incapable of this kind of blatant horny lust, but I'm a lawyer. That makes me a professional too, and I know what runs through my head when you walk into the room in those tight sweaters. I know this guy's thoughts are far from innocent when he looks at us, and it just makes my skin crawl. How can you not see it? See the judgment in his eyes? Why don't you care?

He turns to leave, telling us he has to get a special prescription pad to write out the painkillers. He assures me it will make me forget that I even have a nose, let alone that it hurts like hell. As soon as he leaves, I push into you, letting my head fall onto your shoulder. I can feel you embrace me, your warm arms around my shoulders, sliding your fingers through my hair. I feel warm and safe, but still on edge. I know he's coming back to leer at us.

I bait you, asking you what it looks like. No matter what you say, I'm already on the edge of tears. You're trying to be diplomatic when you tell me that my nose looks like it hurts. I know what that means. I can feel the swelling in my face without seeing it. I know that for the next few weeks people will be asking me what exactly happened to it, and I don't want to explain.

I guess I'm a prime example for what they call internalized homophobia. I hate society for judging us, but I'm my hardest critic, and I hate being ashamed. I'm not used to it. I've always been so...socially acceptable. And honestly, I don't know if I'm really gay, or straight, or whether I'm some weird mix of the two. And I don't know if it really matters.

I work with the law. Everything is precise and neatly labeled-it's meant to be black and white. It's meant to be a set of rules that guide the way we think and how to deal with any situation. Every time it doesn't work that way, it's my job to redefine the situation to fit in those black and white standards.

To have my own life fall into that gray area without the easy manipulation of case law is nearly intolerable. All I really know about this is that I love you, and I guess if that makes me a lesbian, then that's what I am. I don't want to be so cliché as to say I don't believe in labels because that's precisely the problem. I do believe in labels. I believe in them with all my heart. But all these labels seem wrong to me. I don't know what to be.

The doctor runs back into the room with the special triplicate form and tries to hand it to me. Instead, you reach out and take it from him. He's trying to explain to me what it is and how to take it, but I can see that he has your rapt attention. I know that you're already planning to watch over me and make sure I do everything this man says. He hands you some paperwork with an appointment time to get my nose re-set and we're on our way. You're going to take care of me, and I know I love that feeling.

Chapter 18: Olivia

So we stop by the drug store on our way out of the hospital, much to your dismay, to pick up the prescription for those painkillers the doctor gave you. You want to go home, you tell me. Then you tell me it just doesn't hurt that badly, but I can see the pain written in your eyes. You go to your stock line, "I'm fine." You know I don't believe you and I take you to the store anyway, while you sit next to me and pout.

I know that these damn pills are going to mean a fight. You seriously have to be the most stubborn woman in all of New York. You know, next to me. Now that you've decided that you're not taking them, it's going to be an uphill battle. I know, though, that your nose has to hurt like hell. You've slipped into that mode you get when you're hurting but you don't want to admit it. Like saying you hurt will make me think less of you. It would drive me insane if I wasn't exactly the same way.

I have to be slick here. If I just ask you to take them, you never will. It's a dance now, a tango. I ask you if you'd like me to make you tea so you can take the pill, trying to entice you with something you love. You give me a dirty look and tell me that you're not taking them. Maybe I can crush them into your food while you're not looking. Hmmm.

"I'm fine; I'm fine; I'm fine." It's like a mantra. I think you know you're acting like a child, now. I stop you from passing me and give you a hug. I tell you I love you and that I want you to feel better. I ask you to please take them so you can rest. You're cranky from not getting enough sleep and you're getting angry at me and you're telling me that you're fine. You tell me I need to stop hovering as you push me away. Deep breath. Time for a new approach.

I follow you into our bedroom and watch helplessly as you start picking up my clothes off the floor. "I can do that." I start, but then I catch your face, and I hear you in my head telling me you're fine, so I sit on the bed and simply watch as you pick the stuff up. I can see you wincing every time you move your head too fast. You're being ridiculous. You go to the closet and pull out a suit. I ask you what you're doing and you point outside where dawn is breaking and tell me that you have to be in your office at nine. I almost roll my eyes at you, but my good sense keeps that reflex in check. You've been up all night, and you're not going anywhere as long as I'm alive.

If I was at all rational I'd leave you the hell alone, because if I keep following you around you're going to murder me. But then I remember that I'm the one licensed to keep a sidearm. I stand up and huff away from you and into the kitchen. I grab a glass and fill it with water. You're taking these damn pills, even if it kills both of us.

I find you still in our bedroom and I corner you, pills in hand. I put them into your hand with the glass of water. I take a deep breath. "Alexandra Cabot, swallow them now." I try to gauge from your expression if I should duck to avoid being hit in the face by the glass. Sometimes forceful works with you, sometimes it ends with me getting my ass handed to me. I get the sense that you surprise both of us. You swallow them. And then you tell me that you're still going to work, so I shouldn't even think about stopping you. I don't even bother. I know more about what you just swallowed than you do. If you can stay awake longer than five minutes, I'll happily let you go to work. Hell, I'll even rent a limo to drive you there.

Instead of pointing that out to you, I beg you to sit with me on the couch for a little while, just so we can cuddle together. You sigh, eyeing me suspiciously as I give you my innocent puppy dog look. We both know I've won this round and you're irritated with me for being right. First, I make you slide off the jeans and put on pajama bottoms, kissing you gently on your forehead for every step you follow without complaining. You keep telling me that you are going to work, and that you're not going to sleep, but I catch you yawning as I pull you into my arms and flip on the T.V. It's all I can do to not let the smile spread across my face.

You sit on my lap, your head on my shoulder. I'm holding you close to me, quietly running my hands over your arms, rocking you gently. Before we get to the first commercial, you're sound asleep. Slowly and carefully, I extricate myself from you even though I know that a guy with a jackhammer couldn't wake you up right now. I grab a blanket to keep you warm and put everything that you could possibly need next to you. I gently kiss you on your forehead and saying a silent thank you prayer that you have a low tolerance. If you can get tipsy off a beer, we both had to know that you'd be out cold with a heavy sedative.

I go back into the bedroom and start to finish the cleaning you started. Before I know it, it's time for me to go in. Yeah, I know. It's not fair for me to forbid you from going and then for me to go. But I'm not injured. I dash off a note that I love you and that I called your office and told them you wouldn't be there today, just in case you wake up before I get back. I figure I have a good eight hours before that happens. I hope that the city's psycho's are quiet today.

Part 19

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