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Coming Out, Staying In
By Katherine Quinn

Chapter 19: Elliot

You walk in here today looking like you haven't slept in ten years. There are these huge circles under your eyes, and I know that you and Alex were both mysteriously absent yesterday. I hope you had fun, because judging from the look in your eyes; you either had the best night of your life or the worst. Somehow, I'm not sure it matters. Either way, you're going to put me through hell. You more flop at your desk than sit there, staring off into space. Before I can even say hello you tell me to shut up.

"What?" I ask, with a smirk.

Nothing. You don't say a damn thing and for a second I don't think you heard me. Then I catch your eyes on me, appraising my level of seriousness. You don't need to say a word. You don't want to talk about it. You're either in a really good mood and you know I'm going to tease you, or you're in a really bad mood and you're going to eat my balls for breakfast. One point goes to bad mood as you throw yourself into a stack of paperwork that's been on your desk for a week. You're not even looking at me. "So how was your day off?" I ask trying for a casual.

You don't even look up. "I don't want to talk about it." You say.

Okay. That's point two for bad mood.

"Did you see these?" I ask. You almost look pale as you look at the envelope I tossed at you. "It's the gala thing," I say, and you take a deep breath. Every year, they send us these invitations to a bash held by the mayor. Every year we all beg Cragen to let us finally not go. Every year, our whole squad gets dragged by our asses to this thing. It's always been you and me. I couldn't get Kathy to go one of these things even if I really wanted her to. And at least with the two of us, it's comfortable.

But I search your face seeing if this year's going to be different. This year things are different. This year you have her. I guess I'm kind of jealous. Okay, I'm very jealous. Now I'm alone unless I get to take Fin. I think Munch already has dibs. Not to mention he's not quite my type. You mumble something to yourself as you toss the invitation back to me. Right back into the paperwork you go. I hate it when you're in a mood.

"Is everything okay?" I ask. I don't want to ask about anything directly. We don't spend much time anymore talking about our private lives, and I miss that. You still ask me about the kids, and I give you the basics. I know I've been replaced as your confidante. You have Alex now, and she's the focus of your life. I don't ask about her. It's not adversarial, it's just, well, she has taken my place as best friend. You're with her all the time, and I hate it. Not because of the gay thing. Damn, that was a shock, but that's okay. I hate it because you were mine. And now I share you with someone.

It's not mature for me to be angry at her for replacing me. We're both your "partners" only I'm pretty sure that she gets more of the benefits. We don't talk about it, really. You know I love you, and I care about you, and that I'd do anything you asked. But we can't seem to talk about Alex without you getting exasperated at me for something. Our communications have been stunted to off the cuff comments and casual glances. We use a secret code, you and I. The meaning gets across but never direct, never straightforward. This is a dance for us. We flirt around what we mean.

You look at me and sigh. "We spent the night in the ER."

I'm surprised at your openness. That was so clean. "Are you okay?" I ask, my first thought is about you, and you give me a weak smile as acknowledgement for my caring.

"I'm fine. Alex broke her nose."

"That hurts." I say, rubbing my nose in sympathy. I remember getting my share of slams in the face, and nothing hurt as bad as that softball in the face. Of course, that was in front of everyone I know, so it took all I could to not fall to the ground and cry like a baby. "What happened?"

"It was a stupid accident. She's at home now, sleeping off the drugs they gave her."

"Ha. Did you have to crush them into applesauce to get her to take them?"

"I thought about it."

"Sounds familiar," I murmur thinking about that time last year when you had the flu and we practically had to drag your ass out of this place to get you to go home and rest. Not to mention that getting you to take a Tylenol practically took me pulling my gun. "So what you're basically trying to say is that you want to blow out of here early, huh?"

"I wasn't going to ask." You say. I can see in your eyes that you're desperately hoping that I'm going to offer.

"Not a problem." I remember all the times I've run out on you. All the times you've said, "You've got to go home to catch dinner." I know what it's like to be in love. I catch myself and sigh, guilty for being jealous of Alex yet again.

You pour back into your paperwork, and by noon, you're out the door, giving me a huge smile and a hug. I follow you with my eyes, and sigh. Alone again.

Chapter 20: Olivia

I'm standing behind Elliot, restlessly pushing myself from foot to foot, and trying to make the shooting pain in my heels stop. You've dressed me for tonight: the black skirt which is a little too short of my personal comfort and the tight light pink sweater that you taunt me for owning. And these god damn shoes. They're totally impractical, and they're killing my feet. I didn't even know I owned these things until you dragged them out of the back of the closet with a huge smile. Now I remember why they were lying back there. I should learn to say no.

I remember when we first talked about coming to this dance. Right after you broke your nose, that afternoon that Elliot let me sneak out early. It was our first real fight. I hate these things, and you know that. But for once, I was sort of looking forward to one. I wanted to come here tonight with you. Not afraid of you and me being together. In fact, I would be proud to walk in here, holding your hand. Sure, it'd be the scandal of the year, but together, together we could do it. I am not afraid of what anyone else thinks of us anymore. I love you.

Even though I knew there was no way you would walk in here on my arm, I wanted it more than life. Even if we both pulled dates from the bullpen as cover, I wanted at least to sit next to you at a table together. I wanted to be near you. Even if I had to pretend.

When you scoffed at me, it hurt to my soul. I accused you of being ashamed of me. Of being embarrassed for being with me. You cried. I cried. You told me it wasn't that at all, and in defense of your career, you told me we couldn't, just simply could not be seen socially together. You told me that you would find someone to go with, someone from the office. And I should go with Elliot, and we'd be social acquaintances and nothing more.

Almost a year with you. Almost a year and we can't even acknowledge we know each other in public.

Elliot couldn't hide his delight when I forced myself to ask him if we still had a standing date. Only for a second did he give me a look that questioned my sanity, and then he pulled it together, happy to accept. Too damn happy. He almost looked ecstatic. Glad my pain brings you such happiness.

And now here we are, the mayor's big yearly bash where they drag out the cops and the DA's office and parade them around like heroes from a war so that tomorrow they can put us back on the streets and forget about us until we all have to dress up again and go through this giant shindig again next year.

I would have done anything to stay at home with you, alone and quiet, being together. Yet here I am, feeling like a Barbie doll and to make this worse, I don't even get to have the collected benefit of being your date tonight, but I get to watch some sleazy lawyer friend of yours try everything he can to make it socially acceptable to feel you up. If he doesn't watch that hand that's slowly slipping down your back and onto your ass, I'm going to break it for him.

I know that you love me, and the rest of the whole big song and dance, but this has nothing to do with any of that. This has to do with you being afraid. This is you not wanting to tell anyone that we love each other. This has to do with me dragging Elliot behind me to another fancy function as a date while I watch you from a distance and hate this whole thing.

I feel my eyes burning and I have to look away from you. I tell Elliot I'll find him in a minute, and I slip out the front door.

Part 21

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