DISCLAIMER: Any similarities to people and events real or made up are purely coincidental. This is a work of fiction with characters borrowed from Dick Wolf. Inconsistencies with canon, if any, are intentional.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Part 1 of a triptych written in 03/10, aftermath of "P.C."; contains spoilers from Conviction and SVU episodes. Not part of my on-going Lemon Seed and Orange Tree universe at firstname.lastname@example.org
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To lexalex001[at]yahoo.com
By Adrienne Lee
The way her partner was measuring her out of the corner of his eye, it made Olivia all uncomfortable and itchy. Finally, she shifted and demanded, "What?"
Elliot turned his head. "Huh?"
"Something on my face?" Tattooed on my forehead maybe? She resisted the urge to wipe her mouth. It had been over a week since that night, any trace of their ADA's lipstick or anything else had been long gone. "You've been looking at me funny."
"Well." He paused to form a smirk. "You look a little I don't know what."
"I don't know." He scratched his face. "Different? Got a new guy?"
Was she that transparent? She supposed they had been partners for over a decade; they knew each other better than many married couples. "No, El." She sighed, exaggerating exasperation. "No guy."
"Taking a break, eh?"
She could only sigh again. Was that what they were doing? Taking a break? Instead of confronting her about sneaking out before sunrise, Alex hadn't mentioned a thing. Come Monday, it was business as usual. It was as if nothing had happened between them. "Yeah." She rolled her eyes. "Sometimes I wonder what's the point, you know? I really do."
"When you find the right person, Liv "
"Like you and Kathy?"
"We had our problems, too, remember? We were separated."
"But you got back together."
"Listen, Liv, it's not easy; and nothing and no one's perfect. But I love my wife, and I can't see myself spending the rest of my life with anyone else." He confessed, "It drove me crazy to see her with someone else."
Well, so much for Elliot having a thing for her, not that she was ever convinced, but maybe that just showed how totally off Duffy's radar was. Somehow that thought didn't make her feel any better. "Jealous?"
"You bet." He slapped the steering wheel. "I wanted to squeeze the bastard's neck until his eyes popped out."
"Hm." Olivia searched inwards. "I didn't know, that you're the jealous type, I mean."
"I didn't either, not until I saw the two of them " Elliot shrugged. "Hey, I'm not saying I'm proud of it. But that was how I knew I had to get her back."
Before she could comment, she saw the sudden intensity on her partner's face, and followed his gaze to a man fitting the description walking into the internet cafe. "That's our guy."
"And it looks like he's in a hurry." Stabler nodded, and picked up the communicator. "He's in."
"And he just logged on," the tech replied. "I'm tracking him."
"Great," Olivia said, relieved and eager to focus on her job.
"I should've brought a scarf," Elliot announced as they pounded up the granite stairs.
"You cold?" Olivia lifted her brow in disbelief. "It's like 50 degrees out; it's practically summer."
"Out here maybe, but not in there. Whenever you and Cabot are in the same room together, the temperature drops 20 degrees." He didn't give his partner a chance to reply. "Whatever you've got between the two of you, you need to fix it."
"There's nothing between us, Elliot."
"You know, Liv, sometimes you just have to accept fault, to keep the peace."
"That's what you do at home?"
He chuckled and patted Olivia on her back. "That's what I do with you, too."
She rolled her eyes. "Great."
"I'm serious. We're serious."
"Me and the guys. We don't wanna have to break in a new ADA. God forbids Cabot leaves us 'cuz you can't stop butting heads."
"What? You drew the short straw?" Olivia shook her head, couldn't quite believe what she was hearing. "She's not gonna leave us," she replied, ignoring the panic she felt.
"Well, hopefully not if you apologize for whatever you've done or haven't done and make nice."
The detective sighed. "Seriously, Elliot, I haven't done anything."
"Sometimes inaction is just as guilty "
Olivia sighed and stopped her ascent. "What if I told you there was someone?"
"Someone?" Elliot looked back, unfazed by the sudden change of topic. "Someone new?"
"You're not gonna tell me the two of you are after the same guy," he asked and paused long enough to see his partner shake her head. "Well, then, that's great, Liv," he said with a smile and took the last two steps in one. "I hope you found 'the one' this time. Now please, we need her completely behind us to pull this off."
Expelling another breath, she followed Stabler through the revolving door.
"What can I do for you, Detective?"
The cold edge in the woman's voice, it felt like a knife. Olivia nearly flinched. "Do you have time?"
"I think we need to talk, um, about before, two weekends ago." It was then she made up her mind. Gathering herself, she pulled back the visitor's chair, and sat. "We need to talk about what happened between us."
Alex sighed and closed the folder she had been working on. "All right." She leaned back. "Let's talk."
"What happened between us " Olivia faltered and pressed her fists against the top of the wooden desk dividing them. She jumped when Alex placed her hand over hers and squeezed gently.
"Listen, Liv." The ADA offered a light smile. "We don't really need to talk about it. We can pretend it didn't happen, and move on with our lives."
"Is that, is that what you want?"
"Look, you were stressed out, and upset, about the baby, and what you had to do. And you had an absolute right to be upset," Alex provided understandingly. "I should've known better, all right?"
"You're okay with that?" There was that feeling again; her insides were knotting up, Olivia noted. "That's what you want?"
"I think I was clear about what I want. However, it doesn't seem like I have choice in the matter."
There was something else in the blonde's tone. Was it hurt? "I thought we were friends," Olivia replied with more accusation than she intended.
"Okay? We're both adults, Liv, we can work through this without jeopardizing our friendship."
The smile on Alex's face, it was almost sweet. It drove Olivia crazy. "That's it?"
"Look, Olivia," the ADA snapped. "What else do you want? You were the one who left, without even the courtesy of a note. I've walked that walk myself; I understand."
"Walk of shame, Benson."
"Shame?" Was that it? The detective shook her head. "That wasn't how I felt."
"Oh? And how did you feel?"
"You're angry," Olivia observed. It was absurd, but the burn of that emotion felt so much better than civility that bordered on indifference.
"No, I'm not angry," Alex replied, even though her body language conveyed just the opposite. "I left without saying goodbye; we're even."
"Left? You mean when you went back into protection? But we didn't nothing happened between us that night."
"You're right, nothing happened. You were just doing your job, protecting and serving, like you did Babs Duffy."
Olivia flattened her lips. The guys still hadn't stopped teasing her about that kiss. Plus, if it weren't for that stupid kiss, they wouldn't be stuck where they were. It was unreasonable, and unfair scapegoating, but at that moment she didn't care. "It wasn't like that, I mean, it wasn't just that. I care about you, I care about you a lot more, a whole lot more."
"Yeah, well, that's good." Alex settled back into her chair and crossed her arms. "Considering we're friends and all."
It wasn't the first time the detective had seen that self-protective gesture. This time, something clicked, and part of her ached. "Look, Alex," she began, throwing open her hands. "I was confused when I left, I still am. I just, that morning, when I woke up, and saw you, naked under the sheets, I "
"I " She shook her head. "I just couldn't believe what we'd done "
"Should I thank you, then, for not waking me up and making a scene?"
"Alex." Olivia closed her eyes. "Please let me finish."
"What we'd done, it wasn't a bad thing. I didn't mean it that way."
"Then how did you mean it?"
"I felt like a moth."
"A moth," Alex echoed.
"And you were the flame."
"Great, so I was consuming you, and destroying you."
"No, no, no." Was the woman simply twisting her words? Or was she fumbling so badly? "It wasn't like that. I mean, oh, god, I don't know what I mean. I wanted " She squeezed her eyes tight against the image. "But I wasn't comfortable with what I wanted, and I didn't know what to do, so I panicked, and I left."
With an uncertain smile, Alex asked, "What did you want?"
"When I woke up, and saw you, turned away from me." Olivia rubbed her face. "Oh, god, I'm blushing, I can't believe I'm " She shook her head. "I saw the knobs on your spine, and I wanted to kiss them."
"But I didn't want to wake you."
"It would've been a much more pleasurable awakening."
"Than to an empty bed, I know, and I'm sorry." The detective took a shaky breath. "Alex, I like men, I've always liked men. And I like having sex with men, and I don't even mind the stubbles. But with you, it was so different. We didn't, we didn't just take what we each wanted; we shared."
"Yes, we had good sex. You were a considerate lover."
There was that indifference again, and Olivia wanted to punch through it. "Look, what I'm trying to say is, you know that cliché, about all a lesbian need is finding the right guy? Maybe I'm the opposite?"
"Are you trying to tell me I'm the right woman, Liv?"
Olivia got up from her seat and gestured at the wooden divide. "Do you mind? If I came over, to your side?" She laughed. "I mean, not a symbolic gesture, I just wanted to be closer to you."
"Fine." Alex stood and approached the detective.
She noted the still crossed arms, and gently placed her hands on the blonde's shoulders. "I don't know if you're the right woman, to be honest."
"But you want a tour guide."
"But I can't deny that I'm drawn to you," Olivia continued softly, ignoring the accusation. "Attracted to you, and right now, it bugs the hell out of me that you're hugging yourself, and I hate knowing that you feel like you have to protect yourself, from me."
"Let's be honest." With ourselves and with each other, Olivia thought, and knew it was understood.
Alex looked down at their shoes. "I kept telling myself, 'if you don't risk, you can't win'. And I should pat myself on the back for risking, and suck it up about the losing."
She interrupted with a forced laugh. "You know what's worse than a fantasy? You find out reality is so much better, but you can't have it. Meanwhile, you're no longer content with your fantasy."
"You've fantasized about me?" Somehow that knowledge didn't make Olivia feel uncomfortable; it made her want to smile. She did when her companion merely nodded. "For how long?"
"Is that really relevant?"
"I suppose not." She did smile. "Maybe one day you'll tell me." She leaned in aiming for a kiss, but a hand blocked her.
"Olivia, I'm not sure I can do this."
Panic gripped her chest. "What do you mean?"
"You, me, I'm too old to play tour guide."
"Alex," the brunette sighed, "I can't promise "
"But can you? Do you know for sure I'm the one you've been looking for?"
Alex lowered her hand, and admitted, "No, I can't say for sure. But I do know how I feel about women, and being in relationships with them."
"Right, and I can't say the same about me." Olivia acknowledged, and offered honesty, "But I do know I loved kissing you, touching you, and all the other stuff."
"You do," Alex repeated for reassurance.
Olivia nodded and wrapped her arms tentatively around her companion. The lack of resistance gave her courage. In for a penny, she decided, and added, "And I'm not sure I like the idea of someone else in your bed."
"Yeah." She smiled self-consciously. "I think I might maybe have a latent, or recently discovered, jealous streak? So I think we should give this, whatever we have between us, a try."
"What if we burn up?"
Words failed the detective as she watched blue eyes linger on her lips. Flame, she thought, and pressed towards the heat.
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