DISCLAIMER: Most characters are not mine, but I'm using them for entertainment and not for profit. The story is my own.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The “Drinks” series of short pieces: limited to fewer than three full pages, written primarily as fragments of conversations, each featuring at least one drink. The stories are completely unrelated, unless otherwise stated and don’t fit in any particular timeline. They also may be unrelated to canon. I just try to keep the characterization true. I hope I’ve succeeded in that.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SERIES: First part of the 'Tea' trilogy.
Tea – Earl Grey
Alexandra Cabot wrapped both hands around her cup of Earl Grey tea, as though trying to absorb its warmth into herself, even though she knew that the chill she felt was not physical. "Mom," she said softly, "I think I'm in trouble."
She fidgeted and then quickly continued speaking because she knew that her fidgeting had always annoyed her mother. She'd learned over the years that her best strategy for avoiding a reprimand was to stop the annoying behavior and push ahead with the point she'd been trying to make. The technique worked in court, as well, when she'd asked an outrageous question or made an inappropriate comment while cross-examining a witness. She'd immediately say "withdrawn", even before the defense could object or the judge could warn her, then follow up her impropriety with something relevant to the case that was sure to distract the person or people she'd just annoyed.
"I think I'm in love with one of the detectives I worked with in the Special Victims Unit."
There, she'd said it.
Far from making her feel strong and defiant, the admission brought tears to her eyes. "Yes, you know her. You met her at my birthday party. She was the one in the black dress that dipped low on her back, remember? You told her it was stunning which it was."
Two university degrees and thirty years on, being in her mother's presence could still make her feel five years old. But, for once, she didn't mind. She was tired of being strong and fighting this particular battle on her own. She wanted to be her mother's little angel again, to be comforted, to be told that the hurt would go away and it would be all right in the morning. "This isn't how I'd planned to come out to you. In fact, I'd never planned to come out to you, Mom. I'd really hoped that the love affair I had with Justine at law school was just an aberration." She blinked. "I was broken-hearted when she left to take that job in London, but I thought the reason it hurt as much as it did was that I'd never been dumped before. As it turns out, it was probably because she was a woman and the depth of emotion I felt with her is more than I'm capable of feeling for a man even a man I love. And it all pales in comparison to what I feel for Olivia.
She sighed. "I suppose I'd better start at the beginning. But I'm not even sure when the beginning was. I think it was after the Sam Cavanaugh case. I was suspended for a month and I was at home, going insane with boredom and remorse, when she showed up. She'd had the day off, so she was wearing faded jeans and a cream turtleneck that looked incredible against her olive skin. She'd been worried about me, because she knew me well enough to know that time alone to brood was a terrible punishment, so she came by with a bag of Chinese takeout and a movie, even though it was only five in the evening.
"We sat there and didn't talk about the Cavanaugh case. We watched a surprisingly good movie and had re-heated Chinese food and she just let me be. She can be so still. She can radiate empathy without saying anything just comforting with her warmth and her presence. After dinner, we were watching something on TV I have no idea what it was and I found myself talking about the case; confessing how I thought I'd never be the same again. Then she was holding me and I was crying and thinking that being held against her made me feel safer than I ever had in my life. Being in her arms made me feel as though as though I'd come home." She looked self-conscious. "I know how clichéd that sounds, but there is definitely a storybook quality to all this except that storybooks don't usually have tragic endings."
Alex could almost hear her mother thinking. She had always been able to anticipate the questions before they'd come. "Are you sure about your feelings, Alexandra?" "Does this woman share your feelings?" "Will this affect your career? I know how hard you've worked and everything you've been through to be successful."
"My career." Alex looked up and blinked back tears. "When I started in SVU, it was all about the politics. But when the Cavanaugh case blew up and I risked my career to do the right thing while protecting my detectives, I realized that my perspective had changed. It had changed to align with Olivia's. I can't tell you exactly when that happened, but I knew when my punishment was meted out that I had no regrets. She looked at me and I saw respect in her eyes, respect and pride. And I knew at that moment that no public opinion poll could mean more than that. Does she love me? I don't know. I know she likes me. She keeps her emotions under such tight control, but she let me in she let me get close. And that's a gift that's so precious to me that some days I think I'd rather have that than the most passionate love from anyone else." She sniffed. "God, I sound like a bad romance novel yet every word is true."
Needing to gather her thoughts, Alex sipped her rapidly-cooling tea. "I suppose I should tell you what happened today. I mean, I've been back in New York for months and I've never even mentioned her. The reason for that is that I hadn't seen her. I'd avoided her and she'd returned the favor. Mom, you have to understand that I've said good-bye to her twice. The second time was worse than the first. So, two years later, when I knew she'd moved on with her life the rumor at Hogan Place was that she was dating a great guy I knew that I had to take my opportunity for a fresh start and use it to move on both personally and professionally. Well, arrogant as I can sometimes be, I decided that I'd put enough distance between myself and my old feelings, so I invited her to meet me for coffee."
Alex laughed. "She was so angry when she sat down that we were both wondering why she'd even bothered to come."
She remembered the fire flashing in Olivia's eyes as the detective had asked, "I suppose, ADA Cabot, that I should be wondering what I've done to deserve this invitation."
"I'm sorry, Olivia. It was rude of me not to call you and let you know I'd been released from the program."
"Yeah, rude." Olivia had folded her arms over her chest, not conceding an inch.
"Rude and wrong. I regret it and I want you to know that. I want to make it up to you. I want us to have what we had before."
"Didn't Thomas Wolfe write a book about just this situation?" Olivia had sneered.
"But I am home again. At least I want to be."
"I'm not a factor in your homecoming, Alex. You made that choice."
"And I'm admitting it was a bad one. I'm admitting I want to change it."
"And I'm just supposed to fall in line with what you want, because you say so? Because you've decided, upon further consideration, to deign to include me in your life?"
Alex's attention returned to the conversation she was having with her mother. "She was so angry with me and all I could think was that she was heart-breakingly beautiful. She has the most fascinating bone structure. Her cheek bones, her jaw line, the slightly chiseled nose are all unusual, striking. But when you add her wide, almost almond-shaped, brown eyes and her full lips, the combination is stunningly beautiful. She has a small scar on her chin and the hair near her left ear always attempts to curl in the wrong direction, so I imagine it would be really unruly first thing in the morning "
She flushed, remembering she was talking to her mother. "I guess that about sums it up. I've never, ever been as attracted to anyone as I am to her. And even if I try to say that my love for her is based on who she is inside, on her emotional generosity, her quick mind, her courage and heroism, her loyalty to people she cares about it takes nothing from the fact that I want her physically in a way that I'm not going to expand upon to my mother." She smiled weakly.
"I did win her over today, though," Alex almost sounded smug. "But that's because Olivia is too kind to hold a grudge when she suspects that someone is an emotional mess. And I've never been able to fool her on that front. Everyone else in the room might think that I've got it together emotionally and she'll take me aside, smile, put her hand on my arm and tell me it'll be ok. And I'll believe her. I want that again, Mom. I want that for the rest of my life."
This time, when Alex blinked, it didn't quite chase away the tears and one spilled down her cheek. "So I'm in trouble. Olivia Benson has agreed to let me back into her life and I'm not sure I can handle being her friend when I'm so deeply in love with her and have been for so long." She sniffed and laughed. "Trouble. I'd bet that if you ever imagined my saying that to you, it would have been something to do with the advent of a pre-marital grandchild for you. Well, at least that's one thing you don't have to worry about! Although I think lesbianism might just get a higher score on the parental shock meter than inappropriate procreation."
She lowered the cup, knowing she wouldn't be drinking any more of her tea. "Anyway, Mom, I'd better get going. I hope you like the daffodils. You always said they were the first incontrovertible proof that spring was going to stay." The flowers she'd brought stood in defiantly cheerful contrast to the marble headstone. "I've started a small garden on my patio, so maybe I've finally accepted your belief that plants make the difference between a house and a home."
She ducked her head as her tears came faster. "I love you, Mom. And I miss you more than I can possibly find the words to say. Some people would probably say I was certifiable, but it does help me to come here and talk to you. It makes me feel closer to you so, even if it's illogical, I'll be back next week. Maybe I'll even have some more to tell you about Olivia. Maybe one day I'll come here to tell you that she loves me back."
Clutching the lukewarm tea and ignoring the cool wind that whipped her hair across her face, Alex made her way across the cemetery to the car. As she closed the door, the cell phone she'd left attached to the car charger began to ring. She saw the name on the display and smiled through her tears. She sniffed and flipped open the phone. "Olivia," she said softly. "I was just thinking about you."
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