DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Builds on the relationship supposed in my previous fic, REMAINS.
SPOILERS: through Season 5, "Serendipity."
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Hilliard MacKenzie
As her laptop computer whirred to life, Olivia sipped steaming decaf Chai tea, tastes of honey, cinnamon, and cream warm as they trickled down her throat.
The day had been blissfully uneventful as far as Fridays went. The double-edged sword of such quiet days was that she had time to think, and her thoughts of late always led, directly or otherwise, to Alex.
She hadn't heard from the blonde since their fleeting goodbye, attended as it was by Elliott and various members of the DEA. She chided herself for thinking that Alex could or would contact her, disliking the insecurity, the uncertainty that had steadily seeped into her thoughts regarding Alex since their last encounter.
Olivia had a need to know the whereabouts of the people she cared about. She craved this intangible sense of their existence, and right now Olivia was completely unsure about Alex. This left a constant unsettled feeling deep within her, it's chasm steadily growing, the depth and intensity of it still surprising to the detective.
She was very aware that it was beginning to get to her. The Jennifer Fulton case was her first wake-up call. She became personally invested in Jennifer's case, abandoning professional judgment in favor of actually connecting with someone.
Jennifer proved to be a dyed-in-the-wool alcoholic, but not without hope. Olivia had waited nearly an hour as Jennifer met the daughter she had given up for adoption many years earlier. It proved a sobering experience, and over coffee Jennifer informed Olivia that she was entering an inpatient rehab clinic the next day. She didn't think an outpatient program would work.
Olivia offered to drive Jennifer the next day, and the blonde tearfully accepted the kindness. Olivia had her own motive in the gesture closure. She craved closure.
Elliott hadn't said anything to her about it, nor had he brought up the subject of Alex. The last night they had seen the ADA, on the drive back as Olivia struggled in vain to make some sense of her emotions, Elliott simply said he would be there for her if she ever wanted to talk about it.
That's how he had been about her relationship with Alex all along. She had never said anything to Elliott about it but he knew; testament to his ability to read his partner so well.
The laptop screen was alive with color and sound and as soon as she had the chance, she double-clicked to connect to the Internet.
The purchase of this computer had been prompted by Alex, after she had emailed the first of what had become a collection of the most sensual, steamy, for lack of a better word - love letters Olivia had ever read.
The first had taken her by surprise as she unwittingly opened and read it on her computer at work, the message arriving a few days after their first foray between the sheets. Their time that first night together hadn't included much in the way of words, so the ones Alex had written left an even more indelible impression.
From the start of their working relationship, Olivia and Alex had a rapport and ease with one another that neither found with any frequency in other women in their lines of work. Comfortable exchanges deepened to a tangible exchange of energy when they interacted, energy felt by both and addressed by neither.
And then about six months into Alex's stint with SVU, it was the Captain's birthday. Munch offered his new loft as a party space and invited a broad cross-section of Cragen's friends and colleagues to celebrate.
Olivia arrived a little early, having offered to help set up. She was impressed to find Munch completely ready, a seemingly practiced and polished host.
His new digs were in an old industrial building, his flat a canvas of concrete, brick, metal, and glass. Everything was colored in rich earth tones that effectively brought the grand space down to comfortable, even intimate scale. The river was visible in the distance beyond city lights through several eight-foot square windows a spectacular view.
With Munch not needing her assistance, the two of them cracked open a bottle of Crown Royal and commenced the party before any guests arrived.
An hour later, the party was in full swing, the apartment littered with clusters of people. One of Munch's former flames, a knockout by anyone's standards, with radiant cocoa skin and almond-shaped brown eyes, had drawn a crowd as she crooned and worked the baby grand in one corner of the living space.
Olivia was perched on the arm of a worn leather couch, listening to Elliott and his wife, Lenny Briscoe, and George Huang debate the new parking patrols cracking down on sloppy car parkers in the city, when she spotted her.
Alex was being ushered in by Munch, himself. The blonde scanned the place, apparently oblivious to the many eyes riveted on her. She spotted Cragen in a group seated at the island bar of Munch's open galley kitchen.
Alex made her way to Cragen and laid a beautifully wrapped gift among the unopened collection in front of him, favoring the old guy with a hug.
Olivia watched their exchange, appreciating the mutual respect that was so evident between them. After a few moments, Alex turned and again scanned the room, stopping when she came to Olivia. A warm smile washed across the blonde's face and Olivia couldn't help but return it, waving her over.
Olivia hadn't asked but she was certain Alex had studied ballet because she moved with the confident grace of a dancer. That night Alex wore black fitted pants and an opaque black blouse that hinted at a black strapless bra beneath. She had on her glasses, and her hair was pinned up in a spiky twist - the look was devastating and totally sexy.
Alex's smile widened as she neared, her eyes on Olivia.
Everyone returned the greeting, George standing to give Alex a peck on the cheek.
"Wow, you look great."
George's words were spoken low, intended only for the blonde, but Olivia's proximity put her within earshot. A faint blush crept into Alex's cheeks and her eyes briefly landed on Olivia's before returning to the Psychiatrist. Alex and George were friends, she knew, and she felt a little envy for the way they so casually mixed friendship into their work together.
Olivia downed the remains of her drink. She had only recently acknowledged to herself that she was attracted to the ADA. Alex wasn't the first woman to grab her attention, but there had been something different about her.
While she had dated more than her fair share of men, Olivia had also gone out with a few women. None of the experiences had lasted long enough for Olivia to really consider them relationships, but she did know that she was attracted to both genders and if the right one came along, she would have no problem pursuing a relationship with a woman.
Not for the first time, she considered that Alex could be the right one.
She stood, finding herself face to face with the blonde.
"Can I get you a drink?"
"Yes, thank you. I brought a bottle of Absolut Kurant."
Olivia raised an eyebrow.
Both of Alex's brows shot up and she laughed at the idea.
"Never! With club soda, please. And a lime."
"You've got it."
Olivia turned and made her way over to the kitchen bar. Munch and another detective she recognized, but whose name escaped her, was tending to the crowd gathered there.
She caught Munch's eye and wordlessly he took her glass and began refilling.
"Hey, could I get an Absolut Kurrant and soda with a twist, too?"
"Bar hop to the lovely Miss Cabot, are you?"
"Something like that."
Munch eyed her, hands never stopping their work.
"Tell me something. You two are friends, right?"
Olivia nodded, wondering where he was going.
"The rumor mill is conspicuously without information about this one. She single?"
"I think so."
"I don't know. Why don't you ask her?"
It was true, she didn't know, but that was her standard line whenever someone asked about someone else's sexual orientation. She didn't see whose business it was unless you were sleeping with the person in question, and then you wouldn't really need to ask the question because you would already know.
However, the fact remained that she didn't know. That was one of the many things keeping her from acting on her attraction to the gorgeous ADA. The fact that she was the ADA was another.
"It isn't me who's interested."
"Munch, are you trying to be a matchmaker here? Because I'll bet Alex Cabot doesn't need any help in that department."
"How about you?"
He placed her refilled drink on the bar in front of her.
"How about me what?"
"You on the market?"
"As far as you're concerned, no."
He placed Alex's drink beside hers and she grabbed them both.
"But thanks for caring, Munch."
She began the return leg of her journey and soon a pair of bright blue eyes spotted her. Alex had assumed her former place on the arm of the sofa.
Olivia held the drinks up as she passed through a narrow gap between two groups of people, but an errant elbow from a gesticulating Lieutenant jabbed her side and she almost collided with a huge potted palm tree.
She recovered her balance, having managed to only spill a small splash of each drink. Face flushed with embarrassment, she righted herself and hazarded a glance at Alex, whose face registered that she had seen the whole thing.
The look was pure concern and as Olivia neared, she stood.
Olivia shook her head.
Apparently Alex was the only one who had seen the near-accident the other still rapt in conversation.
"I took your seat."
"No, go ahead."
Olivia motioned for her to sit back down and Elliott's wife, Kathy overheard.
"We can scoot down and make room for one of you."
Olivia looked at Kathy, who was already nudging Elliott further down; then she looked at Alex, who wore an amused smile. Olivia spoke as she moved.
"You take the arm and I'll snuggle in with Kathy and Elliott."
Olivia sat gingerly in the small space gained when the three existing couch-sitters moved. She draped her arm around Kathy's shoulders because it was the only way she could fit.
In response, Elliott turned, teasing.
"So you're coming home with us tonight, Liv?"
She didn't miss a beat.
"No, I thought I'd take Kathy back to my place."
Elliott's wife patted Olivia's leg, familiarly. Elliott feigned hurt.
Suddenly Olivia felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up and found Alex gazing down at her, at a height advantage perched on the arm of the chair, her thigh pressed against Olivia's arm.
Alex leaned in, ostensibly to better hear the group, but the result was that she was very much in Olivia's space, a fact the detective found simultaneously energizing and totally unnerving.
If Alex felt it, she had a better poker face than Olivia because she held the detective's gaze and offered a subtle, amused wink before turning her attention to what Lenny Briscoe was saying.
Olivia glanced around, noting the absence of an astute pair of eyes she was sure would see right through her.
Again, Alex looked down at her, face less than two feet from Olivia's.
"Steven's firm was having some sort of function tonight and he had to go."
Steven was George's longtime partner, a family court attorney Olivia had encountered a few times on the job, but never socially.
At her vantage point, Olivia was afforded a view of Alex's opaque blouse that she could have sold tickets to see. She noticed the gentle slopes of décolletage that disappeared into an ornately designed black lace bra.
She realized what she was doing and her eyes darted up to Alex's face. Thankfully the blonde hadn't caught her appraisal, however she looked down then and cocked her head ever so slightly at the look on Olivia's face.
Stellar physical appearance wasn't on the list of attributes Olivia looked for in a potential lover. Intelligence and humor were the top two, followed closely by a deep sense of compassion and respect for others. Alex was off-the-charts in all these areas.
Olivia started to take a swig of her drink when she felt a finger lazily trace the arc of her shoulder blade. The sensation caused a rippling shudder within her and she struggled not to let it manifest in her body.
That had been the beginning of almost an hour of Alex's thigh pressed against her arm, casual touches, and that maddeningly divine finger caressing the landscape of her upper back.
Some time had passed when Lenny stood and announced he was leaving. Olivia didn't recall when she had finished her drink, but at some point she left the purely physical realm of energy between Alex and her, where she had dwelled for some time, and awareness seeped in.
Everyone stood to say goodbye to the detective and Alex's hand slid down Olivia's back before breaking contact. She stood and screwed up the nerve to look at Alex, the source of such teasing bliss.
The noise around them provided cover as she found clear blue eyes that held her gaze.
"Want another drink?"
It took a moment for Olivia to register that Alex was looking for a response.
"Yeah. I'll come with you."
They slipped into the crowd, Alex fluidly maneuvering around the densely peopled space. Olivia started to grab Alex's hand, a natural impulse that propelled action before her brain even realized what she was doing.
She caught herself and wondered what the hell she was doing flirting with a co-worker at an event attended by scores of other co-workers. But Alex was returning the attention and didn't seem bothered by it in fact if anything it seemed to amuse the blonde and induce her gorgeous smile.
Olivia decided it was harmless fun just about the time they reached the bar.
Alex glanced back at her.
"You up for a Kurant?"
Alex turned her attention to the guy behind the bar and a moment later, she moved around to the kitchen and was making the drinks herself.
She first rolled the cuffed sleeves of her blouse up a few inches, revealing lean forearms and delicately pronounced wrists. Alex rinsed out their glasses, drying them before filling them half-full of Vodka. She had to search for soda and eventually found it, finishing the drinks with two slices of lime.
Olivia watched the ADA's graceful hands, articulate fingers, the whole time mesmerized. She was brought back to the moment when a large, warm hand landed on her shoulder. She turned to see Cragen, whom she hadn't spoken with since he arrived.
"Great party, Olivia. Thanks."
He pulled her into a sideways hug.
"You're having fun?"
She returned the squeeze, comfortable in the embrace.
"Yeah. Hey Alex. Is one of those for me?"
The blonde neared carrying both drinks.
"If you'd like."
"No, no, no. I'm sticking with Scotch tonight, but thanks."
Cragen dropped his arm from Olivia's shoulders, commenting as Alex handed her a drink.
"You've got the ADA serving you drinks. You must be doing something right."
"I have ulterior motives."
Alex's tone was light but with an undertone Olivia knew would preoccupy some aspect of her brain for some time.
The Captain again drew her out of her thoughts.
"Better watch yourself, Olivia. You know these attorneys "
Cragen headed for the bar, leaving the two women again. Alex took the moment to give Olivia a leisurely onceover. Olivia's face heated under the scrutiny and she was suddenly very aware of the skin revealed by her shirt, a clingy cotton number with a low-cut v-neck in the front and an even lower one in back.
Alex's eyes returned to Olivia's and she smiled conspiratorially.
"Can I tell you something?"
Olivia was totally unprepared for the blonde to close the gap between them. She stopped breathing as Alex leaned in toward her ear.
"I like the Captain and I'm happy to celebrate his birthday, but I'm in a mood that's pretty dangerous to be in around so many colleagues. You want to get out of here?"
Olivia was jarred from the memory by the computer screen. Eighteen new messages waited in her email inbox. Eyes scanned the senders' names as they arose. She trashed the junk mail as she came to it.
Matt Adderly's name came up and she rolled her eyes. She had gone out on three totally chemistry-less dates with the then newly divorced dentist, several years ago.
The subject line read: "hey, sexy." She groaned and deleted the message without reading it, wondering why it had taken her more than one date to end things with him.
A few more junk messages, and then a new name popped up. Catherine Jensen. Catherine Jensen Brows knit together. Her eyes scanned right and stopped as they fell upon the two letters that were the Subject: "Oh."
Her pulse quickened and a flush of pink rose in her cheeks. She didn't know the name Catherine Jensen, but only one person in the world called her Oh.
She opened the email and drew a deep breath before she allowed her eyes to roam any further.
From: "Catherine Jensen" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, 13 Nov 2003 09:53:42 0500
It's me. Please forgive the time it has taken to contact you. It's been one hell of a month, as I'm sure it has been for you. Thoughts of you have fueled me when nothing else would.
For the moment, I am called Cate. My husband, Will, has a new assignment as an Air Force logistics commander and he is currently stationed in Iraq. Whoever he is, he's pretty good looking, but I seem to have developed a taste for brunette NYPD detectives and all else pales in comparison.
I'm living on the Base in Warner Robins, Georgia, and more often than not I feel like a Connecticut Yankee in King Bubba's court. They are arranging for me to work part time in the base's legal clinic, assisting in an array of domestic cases, but that won't begin for another couple of weeks.
My shoulder is healing well, according to the experts. I won't be playing tennis at Wimbledon anytime soon, but then I was never any good at the sport in the first place, as I know you remember.
There is so much more to tell and I want to tell you, if you want to know. I will be able to call you soon. In the mean time, I will be checking my email often so feel free to respond if the spirit moves you.
Know that you are in my thoughts. Always.
Olivia stood and started toward the tall wooden bookshelf, knowing exactly what she wanted. Fingers closed around a book spine and she turned, carrying it back to the desk. She flipped through pages that were well-worn before she had even purchased it in the second-hand bookstore that day last fall.
She and Alex had spent the better part of a chilly afternoon leafing through tomes in the ancient shop, which had been a favorite haunt of Olivia's for years.
In search of a poem by W. H. Auden that Alex recited word-perfectly in response to Munch asking what a nice girl like her was doing in a profession like hers; Olivia had come upon a collection of poetry that captured her attention.
Olivia settled into an armchair with the book and a chipped ceramic mug of the store owner's hallmark green tea, and spent at least an hour pouring through the pages, discovering several new pieces, including the one she sought right now.
Olivia wasn't one to quote poetry but she was certain it would take hours for her to write a response that expressed what this poem already did so well.
She laid the book open to the right of the computer, clicked the "reply" and began to copy the words:
"Come to me in the silence of the night;
Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
As sunlight on a stream;
Come back in tears,
Oh memory of hope, love of finished years.
"Oh dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter-sweet,
Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brim-full of love abide and meet;
Where thirsting longing eyes
Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.
"Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
My very life again though cold in death;
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
Speak low, lean low,
As long ago, my love, how long ago.
-Christina Rossetti, "Echo"
Clicking the send button, a wave of optimism surged through Olivia; one of the few happy feelings she had experienced since Alex's presumed death. Not only was Alex alive, Olivia knew where she was, how she was. Alex was back in her life again.
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