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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Coming Out, Staying In
By Katherine Quinn

Chapter 25: Alex

How dare you.

You're trying to make me mad. You want me to scream at you; you want me to yell and cry. You want to make yourself feel good and punished so I can be the one who comes begging to you with an apology. Screw that.

I know your game. I can feel you poking at my buttons, trying to elicit a response. I hate it when you act like that. Like the petulant spoiled child that you have thriving within you; the little girl who always gets her way. This isn't as simple for me as it is for you; there are complexities. Many things that have to be considered; a careful cost benefit analysis must be constructed and the risks weighed carefully. Even the slightest miscalculation at this point can lead to the imminent end of what could be a very promising career. Why can't you see that I'm not ready to jump off a ledge? Sometimes, it's so clear that you were born an only child.

I don't know how you can stand in front of me and demand for me to give you only things that you want. I worked so hard to get where I am. And I wouldn't want to risk it for anything.

I wish you would get off this kick. Why can't it just be like when we were first together, that secret that only we shared? We were so close; our rendezvous' were so exciting. You never brought up telling my family, or telling my friends, or bringing this up in my professional life. We were just happy to be together. Why can't we be that way again?

I may love you more than life, but you're being petty. Stupid. You want things even the pettiest men I've dated haven't wanted from me.

"Alex, what happens when something happens to you? No one even knows that we're together, I wouldn't be able to see you in a hospital."

"Nothing's going to happen to me." I refuse to play the great game of `what if' with you. Any number of possibilities exists in the world and I won't play into all of them.

You sigh and are ready with your response. "But what if it does? Wouldn't you want me to be with you?"

"I can't talk to you when you get like this." I say, hearing the coldness in my own voice. I'm not ready to have this fight with you. I'm not ready to concede my point, because this time, I really think I'm right. I think you're out of control. What happened tonight? It was unfortunate. I know you were hurt, but you knew well enough that my heart was always with you. This is just a game to me, the men, and the politics of work. It would be so much easier for me if you weren't such a part of that world. We would never be having this fight if we hadn't both been invited to a professional event where we were expected to attend not as friends, but merely as casual acquaintances.

You want a fight. I know you well enough that you would much prefer that I get hysterical and scream at you.

I see the pain in your eyes. I don't want to admit that I know that this hurts you. I just wish you could see my side. See my point of view on this one.

"I think we should break up," you mumble.

"What?" You've got to be nuts. This isn't that big of a deal. It's a tiny little scuffle, barely a blip on our relationship radar. With a few more tears and some mumbled apologies we can be in bed having mind-blowing make-up sex within the hour.

"I think we should break up," you say again.

"Liv," I reach out for you. "Come on, you don't mean that."

"I really do Alex. I can't...I can't be like this."

"Liv, we've, it's been a year. We've been through so much together. Come on, we can handle this."

"I can't anymore, Alex. I just can't." I can see the tears in your eyes as you walk towards me. Gently, you kiss my cheek and give me a brave smile. "I'm going to, I'm going to go," you say, "I'll call you Monday, make arrangements to get some of my stuff or something."

I can't move as I watch you walk out the front door. You're still wearing your pajamas; you don't even stop for your clothes. I'm frozen. Frozen in place, standing here, looking at where you stood only seconds before. So this is it? This is the end?

My body feels weak as I collapse into tears.

Chapter 26: Olivia

I'm going out tonight.

And not with you.

I'm going out intentionally, so that you can see me. I've heard from the rumor mill that you're going to the same place every night, after court. Every night you eat the same dinner; a pattern that comes from depression and from the fact that you can't face going home and cooking dinner for only yourself again. I feel bad, but only for a second. You ripped my heart out, after all.

I want you to see me. See me and her, out together. I want you to see me, and I want you to look at me, and I want you to see me with her, smiling and laughing.

I want you to feel bad. As bad as I felt, no, I want you to feel worse.

Yeah, I know what they say. Two wrongs don't make a right. Well one wrong doesn't make a right either, but at least two wrongs will make me feel better.

I never thought I'd make it through that first week, after I moved out of your apartment. I'm glad that for all those months we lived together, you insisted that I kept my place too. You didn't want anyone to know that we were for all intents and purposes living together. I guess your denial saved me some pain.

For the first week, even the thought of you in my mind was enough to bring tears to my eyes. I missed you; I missed you so much it was palpable. I could feel it, twisting in my heart when someone would mention talking to you about a case. They stopped using your name all together because of the look on my face. They call you simply the ADA now.

After two weeks, the wound started to heal. I'd hear stories about you, mostly from El, who sees you far more these days as he's always sent to be our liaison. Our interactions are buffered through him, now. He says you look pale and that you've lost weight. He says you were crying the other day, when he walked into your office to discuss the case, and that you had wiped the tears out of your eyes, and told him that you were okay.

I wish you had shown that much heart when we were together.

This new woman is simply someone who I met in an act of desperation, hanging out in a bar, she approached me. I came onto her, wanting to show you that I could rebound with the best of them. It won't be a solitary existence. I refuse to take her home, smiling and flirting is all I can take, and when I stumble in the door to my deserted apartment, I have to wash my face where she touched me. I feel dirty, like I cheated on you, cheated on us. But there is no us anymore, is there?

I convince her to meet me in your favorite hangout for a dinner not to be soon forgotten. I plan for us to be there, right after the case I know you're arguing should end. I know you well enough to know that you'll grab your coat, not bothering to pause to put it over your shoulders and find your way here, to be numb. Stare at the same empty seat and pull out a stack of legal briefs that you need to "review". I hope your work is able to keep you warm at night-I hope it comforts you like I did.

I'm setting you up, I want you to feel something. I want you to understand. Understand what it was like for me to watch you at a distance and to feel my heart breaking in my chest.

I hear the door opening and I know it's you before I see your blonde head. You do look thinner. I can see the distraction in your eyes, the vacant expression, before they focus on me. You almost smile, before you see her.

Shock, horror, denial, fear. I can see it all in your eyes, flash through in a few brief seconds. I lean over and smile at the girl, take her hand, and I can see you out of the corner of my eye staring at us. I lean into her, kissing her cheek. That's the final straw and I can see you run by me and into the bathroom. Suddenly, I'm plagued by the guilt of knowing that I've gotten my wish. I hurt you. I hurt you like you hurt me. It's snapping through my stomach, through my chest and into my heart. Why did this seem like such a good idea again?

My heart breaks, thinking of you alone. I look at, at, what's her name, and tell her I'll be right back. I push back from the table and follow you.

Part 27

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